Design & Draft: Back Yokes for Denim

No post yesterday- I teach on Tuesday nights and while I could schedule a post I don’t like to.  It lacks immediacy, call me old-fashioned.  (Others who blog, do you schedule posts on a regular basis?)

For the rest of this week, I want to zero in on some denim details.  On Monday, we looked at RTW jeans-style waistbands/belt loops.

Drafting a Jeans-y Back Yoke

Tonight (this morning?), I have a new Visual Reference Guide at sewingcake.com for you.  It’s a very clear step by step guide to drafting a back yoke on the Hummingbird Skirt.  The same steps and logic can be applied to other skirts or pants, and it’s pretty clear even for someone who might not draft much but would like to add a little design interest to a plain skirt.  Take a look.

The yoke for Hbird is a similar shape, though the seam is higher on the body.  Big reveal of finished skirt on Friday!

The yoke for Hbird is a similar shape, though the seam is higher on the body. Big reveal of finished skirt on Friday!

The resulting yoke is a less-traditional shape like the yoke on the Pinkie Pants.  I like the way the seaming wraps around my body, it’s subtly unexpected.  I wrote the Visual Reference Guide so that your Hummingbird Denim Yoke seam would wrap around your body and flow into the pocket seam in a similar way.  I also wrote in how to make a more traditional V-yoke.

Meanwhile, let’s check out other back yoke treatments for inspiration:

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This is a fairly ordinary back yoke.  In general, a back yoke seam is flat-felled and functions as an alternative to a back dart.  That is, it introduces a curve in the backside area.  For some very curvy bodies, a back yoke + small dart may be necessary.

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Generally, the back yoke seams slope gently down toward the CB seam, a few fingerwidths higher than the widest part of the backside curve.  Cool pocket variation shown here, and click here for a useful perspective on the visual effects of pocket size.

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As with waistbands and belt loops and threads, back yokes vary widely.  I like the extra little seam here, from Armani.  Extra seaming = extra labor costs for cutting/sewing = pricier garment.

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These jeans are from the same maker, Armani, and you can see they’re as different as can be from the other pair.  The wash (color), the shape and position of the yoke, and the distance between the stitches.  It’s an extra wide flat fell seam.

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These lavishly embellished women’s jeans have a surprisingly straight yoke seam with a double belt loop back detail.

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This back yoke is nothing special, but I rather like the crossed belt loops and the seamed pockets.  Note the angle of the pocket flaps.

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And for the finale, this quirky-cute back yoke.   I imagine it would be a pain in the neck to sew, but the result is worth it.   I rather like the pockets, too, what do you think?  I’d almost call it Art Deco style, except… it’s a denim skirt…

Read On

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click for source

While I was looking around for some interesting back yokes for this post, I found a very cool article on Jeans Anatomy.

Tomorrow: Hemp-Cotton Denim Torture Testing / Sample Sewing / Denim Threads and also How to Calculate Fabric Weight

Then: The Big Reveal and Guide to Sewing with Hammers

Fabric Shopping!

Viscose with a whiff of lycra and polyester

I went Fabric Shopping today!  This warrants capital letters because I don’t often shop for fabric, and I don’t stash.  With a single notable exception (stable striped knits in natural fibers with a hint of lycra), I don’t buy fabric without an Intent.  Since my most recent Fabric Shopping event back in February, I dutifully shunned The Fabric Store.  It helps that TFS is all the way on the other side of the city.

I don’t stash, but I do deliberately buy fabrics that should go together for particular projects and collections.  This usually marks the beginning of a drafting and sewing binge that gives birth to another handful of Cake designs.  With Hummingbird, Tiramisu Second Edition, Cabarita and Bonny at the end of production, I’m “allowed” to shift my focus to the next set of Cake Patterns…

Red Velvet

Red Velvet

Last week, I went looking for some red velvet for an upcoming project.  *cough cough It’s called Red Velvet cough cough*  I found this at Spotlight.  It is 90% polyester and 10% spandex.  As a rule, I don’t work with polyester, but I’m willing to keep an open mind and challenge myself.  This was rather expensive dancewear velvet.  It’s 4 way stretch and because it’s intended for dance I assumed I could shove it in my washing machine with impunity.

This fabric is beautifully bulletproof, with  great drape and body.  I washed this on warm with reds.  I left it overnight because I’m lazy and forgetful, and then left it on the line for two days for a similar reason.  I expected expensive dancewear fabric to stand up to this kind of abuse*.  I was not disappointed.  I have the idea I want to make an indestructible cocktail dress.  Because.

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I had almost given up on finding a beautiful stretch lace to go with my red velvet.  I kept finding clumpy, glumpy, gross stretch lace in bright white. I wanted something slinky and smooth and classy in a pale red.  Not pink, but a pale red.  I’d given up the search when I spotted this nylon lace today at TFS!

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This lace will be underlined with a creamy organic cotton jersey.

Daywear Version

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This I purchased recently from Cake retailer Strommig Designs.  I think she still has some pink/orange left, but I’m not sure about the blues.  I do know this is an extremely high quality medium weight cotton lycra knit and I plan to use it for a “daywear” counterpoint to the lacy velvety thing I have in mind…

Menswear Collection

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My husband has been pestering me for new clothes for a few months.  I made the odd shirt and shorts for him, but I’ve also been squirreling away fabrics for when I roll up my sleeves to create a core wardrobe for him.

The the other day I cut a few pairs of shorts for him and we audited “his” fabrics.  Most of them were plain colored twills for bottoms in shades of brown.  I picked this up for him today, to break up the plain shorts and pants in his near future.  It’s a closely woven viscose, polyester and lycra blend and also feels beautifully bulletproof.  I kinda hoped he’d dismiss the fabric, allowing me to swoop in and claim it.  Nope, he likes it.

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Here we have a lightweight striped jersey with a 5% lycra content.  I like a little Lycra in my knits, it helps the garment keep its shape and last longer.

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This is a heavier viscose/lycra blend.  I wasn’t looking for a fabric like this when I went out, but I have several possible plans for this fabric…

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Though the fabrics don’t “match,” I do think they coordinate well.

And that’s how I shop for fabrics!  Which do you like best?  I can’t decide, I really can’t.

Em at Tumble Weeds in the Wind recently interviewed me for Stashbusting.  She asked some interesting questions!  The first part will be live on her blog in the next day or so, do check it out.

*(in my brain expensive fabric = durable, though not always washable… but dance fabric should wash.)

Midweek Stroll: Treasure Hunting After A Storm

Cabarita Beach, NSW

This past weekend, my family and I left Brisbane in the rear view window and headed to “our” beach, Cabarita.  All this month, storms battered the dunes and stirred up the reefs just offshore.  It’s an interesting process that destroys part of the ecosystem, but also can free up resources for other species to thrive which enhances the biodiversity of the reef in the long term.

February kicked off with cyclonic storm winds (cyclone= hurricane that rotates clockwise) and has been mostly rainy and stormy ever since.  Bad luck for some misplaced reef life, but it makes for very interesting beachcombing.

Cabarita Beach Combing

We spent a soft late afternoon at Cabarita…

…building sandcastles, swimming, and seeking hidden treasure.

During high storms, the wind and tidal surge push the waves over the rocks, leaving all manner of interesting flotsam and jetsam behind.

Cabarita Beach, NSW

We found a wide range of sponges and corals, ripped from the seafloor.  I spent a long time looking at this hard sponge, and now I wish I’d brought it home with me!

We also found some of the nicest shells I’ve ever seen in nature!

Cabarita was crawling with surfers of all ages, too.

the shelled animals in this photo are the same size as the tiny one in the shell gallery above...

the shelled animals in this photo are the same size as the tiny one in the shell gallery above…

Cabarita Beach, NSW

We went to Stephen’s parents home for the night, feasted on Vietnamese food, slept late and then spent the next afternoon doing it all over again.  It didn’t get boring, in fact we all became rather like Gollum over our shell finds.   We’d been a little edgy all week, and it was nice to be out together with no worries.

Our Haul

And check out our haul!  I love the barnacles, to me they look like sea dragon molars. I’ll probably put these on the table in  a bowl, maybe the larger ones will go on our “interesting dead things” shelf.

What’s your favorite thing to do on a weekend?  The thing you wish you could do every weekend, but only manage every so often? Do you ever go “treasure hunting” for shells, rocks, plants or wildlife sightings?

Design Inspiration Poll: Circle Skirt Applique

But first- today’s two winners of the OCC Lip Tar Sample Packs:

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Thanks for the link, Emily.

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Hey Kate!  I wasn’t completely clear- OCC is an American brand.  But VeganBeauty.com.au is an excellent Aussie retailer!DSC07103

If you two ladies would please email me your addresses and your palette preferences, I’ll drop those in the post to you!

Circle Skirt- 5 Positions of Pavlova

During the Shipping Season as you’re all receiving your Pavlova Wrap Top & Skirt pattern, I’ll be releasing a series of drafting and techniques tutorials tailored to the Pavlova Separates.  Circle skirts are a very versatile shape- easy to sew, fun to play with.  In keeping with the off-duty ballerina flavor of the pattern, I thought I’d call these the 5 Positions.

skirt with a secure and tidy knit waistband.  click for full tutorial on sewingcake.com.  We'll revisit knits and circles more closely very soon...

skirt with a secure and tidy knit waistband. click for full tutorial on sewingcake.com. We’ll revisit knits and circles more closely very soon…

For the 5th position, I thought we could go tacky and hilarious or surreal or avante garde with some good old fashioned appliques!  I know how to execute them (and write the tutes!) but I thought I’d ask for your input on the applique design before I finalize the tutorial:

very lazy, linked to my pinboard.  click for path to source.

very lazy, linked to my pinboard. click for path to source.

How cute is this?  I love rainy days, and we could add in some pretty raindrops, too.  Or.  Some kind of bedazzler?   Why not?

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click for pinboard

Plain diamonds appliqued around the hem might work.  And tassels, so mischievous. Without them, it could be a cool graphic way to show off a neato printed fabric.

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Sans rickrack, and perhaps only one bunch of flowers… What if they were dimensional?  Ooooooh…

click for full pattern photos

click for full pattern photos

These were part of a “general purpose” vintage applique pattern, aren’t they adoooooorable?  Pick these, pick these!  I want to wear skunks! (And are those little birdies… or…? sequins? )

Picture 21I noticed this applique for birds and a cage last year, and the idea has been following me around ever since….

So let me know what you’d like to see by voting below.  I’ll include a pdf template of the applique I use on my final skirt, and she’ll be revealed as the 5th Position of the Pavlova Skirt.  Sound good?  (I am not, am not, am not making a poodle skirt, though.  :))

Vote as many times as you like before the end of this week. Then I’ll get to work on that applique tutorial!

My Red Leather Bag

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Last Christmas I came into a bit of money- my grandfather in law is generous around the holidays.  I always sit and think hard- what is a good gift from an older gentleman to a younger woman in the family?

Red Leather Bag 1

This is just before I went out earlier today to run errands and meet with another creative professional in the city…

This year, I chose a smart new shoulder bag.  I must have a large bag to carry around my files and samples and the international post.  I don’t drive, opting instead to avail myself of Brisbane’s excellent public transit services.   My travel habits demand a good, solid bag.

Red Leather Bag Pockets

This bag has so many pockets I can keep a mini-desk inside!  There’s plenty of room for my laptop, or dolly samples, or fabric, too!

Red Leather Inside

Excellent stitching, very durable I should think.

Red Leather Bag

I know it’s a no-no, but I definitely wear my bag like this when I’m hiking across the City center… Do you recognize my silk-cotton cummerbund belt? And the Pavlova skirt? Wear them all. the. time.

The red works for me because it’s a core color in my wardrobe.  More than half my makes are black, white, navy or red.  Here, I’m pairing the shoulder bag with my sensible red leather ballet flats.  Tell me- is it permissible to wear two shades of red or is that simply not done?

For me, this bag is a little more than a carrying case.  I’ve been schlepping Cake work all over Brisbane in a clean and smart canvas bag.  This new bag makes me feel more “together”- like a professional working lady.

What’s your everyday/work bag like?

Today’s Giveaway Winner:

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*No one asked me to write this post, I’m just happy with my boss new bag and wanted to show her to you!

Design Inspiration: Horseshoe Necklines and the Dickey

I haven’t made a Design Inspiration post for a while!  I’ve been focusing so much on “business” work I haven’t had a chance lately to let my imagination wander as it pleases, so it was fun to take some time out earlier today to hunt vintage pattern inspiration…

I have this pattern and a favorite black dress made from it.  Very sharp.

I have this pattern and a favorite black dress made from it. Very sharp.

Dickeys are common enough in vintage sewing, in fact several of my favorite dresses feature dickeys.  A dickey uses very little fabric, and even when the entire thing is hand-sewn it takes little time to create.  It’s a small way to add interesting detail to an otherwise simple cut (or go nuts on the cut and throw in a dickey!  that works too!). It’s also a great way to use a pretty piece of fabric that might not work for an entire garment.

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But first- the U-shaped neckline.  It’s steeper than a standard scoop, which perhaps allows it to reach just a little deeper- or maybe that’s a visual effect.  (Is that a roll collar on the blue?)

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The envelope back description reads:

Butterick 5826; ca. 1951; One-Piece Tailored Dress: Bias Bodice. Wonderfully slim dress that will do just the right things for you. Horseshoe neckline bodice teams with a wing-collared dickey which contrasts the dress in (A). Contrast cuffs on three-quarter sleeves (A). Long sleeves (B).

I love this description, especially the phrase “horseshoe neckline..teams with a wing-collared dickey.”  I prefer “horseshoe” to “u-shaped,” don’t you?  Winged collars are easy to sew and look enchanting.

click for source-  Etsy

click for source- Etsy

This dickey-bodice combination is a little wider, and looks heavily pintucked.  I like pintucking, myself, but I think a plain or even a lace piece could look quite pretty.

I’m also fuller up top, and can say from experience that anything to break up the bulk without adding to it works really well on my figure.  These envelope ladies are a bit slimmer, but it still looks nice.

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Advance 5605 carries on the pleated-dickey-tux vibe, with the inclusion of some shaped lapels.  A dickey paired with this type of collar was super popular in vintage patterns from the late 40′s to mid 50′s.  I don’t love them, but don’t hate them either.  What do you think?

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Moving away from pleats, this inset/dickey from the early 60′s creates extra visual interest in a wrapped dress.  To me, this looks like “desk job/smart clothes” more than something I might wear every day…

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At first glance, this horseshoe-neckline-dickey might also seem unsuitable for day wear.  But strip off the gloves, fancy fabrics and accessories.  Imagine a very lightweight dickey fabric and a simple, secure edging.  Can you see it?  Do you like it?

click for source- on sale on etsy

click for source- on sale on etsy

This dress (another Advance, I love their work) shows that the neckline works both with and without its dickey.

Simplicity 3441

This dickey, like many others, is completely detachable.  I assume with snaps sewn to the inner neckline.  The cuffs are also detachable.  I did this on my McCalls 3370 (pictured above at the top of this post, pre-blog) and it worked pretty well, though it took extra time to dress in the morning.

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In fact, dickies under other names have been around for centuries.  I well remember making Elizabethan partlets for historical re-enactments and theatre.  Click here for an interesting read on men and women wearing dicki- I mean, partlets through history.

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A close relative to the dickey is the bib-front.   As far as I can ascertain, the difference between a bib and a dickey is both depth and detachability.  Perhaps bibs should also be made of a similar fabric as the rest of the blouse, while dickeys are intended to replicate a layering effect?

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click for image source

This is a modern bib-front-dickey-peter-pan-collar-lace-and-rickrack thing.  Despite myself, I find it rather charming.  Perhaps green with a white contrast and pink accent, or any shirt color other than that despondent plum.

What do you think?  Have you worn/sewn dickeys before?  Did you like them?  How do you like the Horseshoe Neckline? For a look at more of my recent inspiration images, check out my pinboard.

Plans for 2013 Pt 1- 3 Hours Past and Cake and a Survey!

2012 was chaotic for me on the blogging and website-building front.  I was learning constantly, testing new ideas and mediums, and figuring out how to put everything together all at one time.  I think that shows in the blogging.

Emse on her Phone

That’s not right, not right at all.   Besides, I’m starting to understand more and more of the “computer work” involved and it’s easier for me now.   This post is to let you know what’s going on around here, and to give you a little look into The Future. I’ll start with where I see 3 Hours Past and sewingcake.com going in 2013:

Sometime in the last few months I realized I’m not really a “social” sewing blogger anymore, but I’m not really a “pro” blogger either.  Where does that leave 3 Hours Past?

Well- I have many other interests I write about occasionally besides sewing- sustainability, fashion history and design inspiration among others.  Oh!  And Finished Object posts, I love those… That’s 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World, and I like being able to connect with you clever and interesting people on topics other than the sewing.  (I’ll write Cake posts here, too, but not as frequently as in the past few months..)

Sewingcake.com will be the place I write tutorials, post videos, run sewalongs and other events, and showcase Cake Patterns.  The idea behind the sewingcake setup is that over time, as I fill in more tutorials and support for the patterns, the front page will become a “living” visual reference. (always wanted to do that with 3HoursPast…) I also want to make good use of the social media tools that many of us use to connect and share inspiration- primarily flickr and pinterest.

30 Minutes a Day Sewalong Tiramisu Headline | Cake PatternsIf you go take a look at the 30 Minutes a Day Tiramisu Sewalong page, you’ll see what I mean.  I used both types of galleries on that page, with the idea that the Flickr gallery will aid troubleshooting and the Pinterest gallery provides several options for following along with the action to make sure you don’t miss out.  (I’m also running a feed for the sewalong in the right sidebar here—->)

If you haven’t checked out the sewalong page lately then please do- I outlined how the galleries will work together and set a few “parameters” for the Sewalong.  I’ve taught far, far more classes than I have run sewalongs so for me it makes sense to run this as I would a class.  Check it out. (I’ve been writing up the posts for it this week, I’m SO excited about the Sewalong!)

Cake Patterns

Tiramisu is making wavelets through the blogs and PR as more of you get a chance to sit down and stitch with me through Cake Patterns. I love it!  Keep up the good work!

Pavlova Circus and Pre-Sale

Pavlova’s pre-sale and Circus came and went just before Xmas, and she should ship in February.  Words can not express how much easier and smoother the production process was compared to Tiramisu, and I’m really looking forward to you all having your Pavlovas.

Around shipping time, I’ll introduce you to a Cake concept that’s been brewing for a few months: “collabvertisements.”  I shipped a pretty winter wool set of Pavlova separates (the gray and ivory) to a certain historical shoe designer who has a beautiful T-strap style coming out shortly…  She’ll style and shoot the photos herself- her shoes with my samples.

I’ll also be rolling out my “5 Positions of the Pavlova Skirt” blitz- 5 distinctive skirts made from the same simple Pavlova Skirt pattern pieces.  Oh yes! 

Hummingbird

Miniature Hummingbird Cake | 3 Hours PastHummingbird is named after my favorite layer cake, and it’s all about work clothes for professional women.

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Like Pavlova, Hummingbird is a jersey top and a woven skirt- and of course, always with pockets.  Unlike Pavlova, Hummingbird is a “meatier” concept to create a more formal ensemble.   The top is the popular and flattering peplum cut, but don’t expect your garden variety peplum from this 1940′s obsessed pattern drafter!  The cut will work with lighter fabrics as a top and also for heavier sweater knits.

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The skirt is slim cut with no gape pockets, a contour waistband and a circular cut back flounce with lapped seams.  I’m engineering the construction to be “semi-couture,” but left an escape hatch for beginners and impatient intermediates.  I’m drawing heavily on inspiration from European skirt designs from the 30′s.

hummingbirdcolorI can’t say a single word more about Hummingbird, I don’t want to spoil the surprise!

Lamington’s design happened a few months ago when my husband asked me to engineer him the ultimate Field Ecologist pants- serious cargo type pants he wears while working.  He had very particular specifications for pockets, function, and cut.

It’s a slim leg pant, but not so slim as to inhibit movement.  I included such functional details as exposed zippered pockets, adjustable waistband buckles, back pocket detailing and front pockets just deep enough for an iphone but not too deep.  I have a huge bag of rivets, buckles, zippers and all the other hardware I could locate because we’re going to be sewing with hammers!  I love that, it’s so much fun!

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That’s right- Cake is branching out into men’s patterns!  The best part about the Lamington pants is that all that optional fun stuff can be stripped away to leave a very simple but cool men’s pants/shorts pattern.  And since it’s me, and it’s Cake, we’ll draw you a simple map to sort out the design details so you can customize to your heart’s content.

I don’t know about you, but I often steal my husband’s pants.  Rest assured, I’m stealing his pants pattern too and will show you how I “girly-fy” the Lamington pants.

I’ll pair them with a solidly simple baseball tee pattern we can play with to create other kinds of specialty activewear.  Dear me, I’m excited about sewing Hummingbirds and Lamingtons together…

Survey

Last year, I asked you all to go dig out your tape measures and contribute to my Hips-to-Waist Ratio survey.  I’ve played with the data a few different ways since then as I work out the Holy Grail of pattern drafting: a women’s pants grade.  Recently Braless In Brasil asked me to dig around and answer a question for her from my data.  I will soon, I love “new” questions.  If you missed that survey before then feel free to join in.  I’m still adding numbers as they come in.

While I prepare my equations for the Lamington Pants, I’d like a “Male” data set for waist to hip ratios.  My research and experiments show me that men are much less variable in that area than women, but I would like to build my own data set to work with.  To the male sewists out there and those of you with access to a man or men- do you think you could contribute to my Male Waist to Hip Ratio survey?  I’d really appreciate it, and I’m sure it will help me build a fantastic men’s pants pattern:

As happens, I sat down to write a single post and discovered I had material for two.   In the next post, I’ll tell you what’s going on with some other Cake projects- namely the Petit Four projects and the Cake Riffs, as well as my teaching/events line-up in Brisbane for the next few months.

What do you think about all of that?  Tiramisu and Pavlova and Hummingbird and Lamington!  I’m still twiddling and refining the last two patterns, so if you have a workwear or cargo-pants “wish list” do let me know…!

Conversant In Color: Saturated Tones on the First Lady of the United States

It’s been too long since a Conversant In Color post!  I still have a few color concepts rattling around in my brain that won’t go away, so I thought I’d pick up the series by exploring the color choices of Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States.  It’s nearly Election Day!  I always found elections exciting times, even when I was a little kid.  While I don’t live in the U.S., I am aware that this presidential campaign has been vitriolic.  Please, let’s let that go for a little while and simply take a look at how the First Lady uses color.

Mrs Obama and I have radically different coloring, climate, and performance needs (when was the last time *I* had the Chinese Prime Minister to dinner?), but after much digging in Google Images I realized we have some similar ideas on color.   For one, she doesn’t shy away from using color freely in her wardrobe.  Naturally, she wears black and white and beige neutrals like anyone else, but for events ranging from state dinners and goodwill tours abroad to “mom-in-chief” moments and awareness campaigns, the First Lady turns to colors she knows she can rely on.

The more I looked, the more I saw that the First Lady works from a pretty tight color palette.  She does occasionally deviate from her “colors,” but these variations just show the wisdom of her stock color choices:

Yellow

Orange

I like these colors together.  On her!

Orange, what looks like a full maxi skirt… Oh swoon…!

Pink

Red

She carries herself so well- next to her, two of the world’s most powerful men (Hu Jintao, Barack Obama) look like mere politicians.  She is regal- and doesn’t deny her height by slumping over.

Purple

Blue

The lesson here- if you’re going to stand out in a crowd, then own it.  Here, the First Lady stands out for her height and skin color, two unchangeable physical attributes.  She shines in this sapphire frock.

The same dress, after hours.

Head-to-toe, every inch a lady.  The First Lady.

Green

I gathered all these images to show the First Lady’s “go-to” color palette.  When thinking about use of color in the wardrobe, it’s easy to think of clear divisions between “warm” and “cool” coloring.  Mrs Obama’s palette does not easily fall into these categories- check out the way she wears both blue-purples and red-purples equally well.

However, it is important to note that all of the colors we’ve looked at share a common trait- they are clear and/or brilliant.  I’m no expert on dressing darker skin, but to me it seems the more saturated colors work incredibly well with her depth of coloring.  For the First Lady, the important factor in choosing color is not “warm” or “cool” as much as wearing colors as rich as her natural tones.  She also looks very well in plain color or clear abstract patterns.

This is a good trick to remember regardless of your personal coloring- try matching the saturation of the colors you wear to your natural coloring.  This may or may not suit your personality, but it’s likely you’ll discover new color-friends this way.

Gray is a great “invisibility” color for the First Lady.  A quietly flattering blending-in color, like we talked about in the Separates post.  We all need a little invisibility sometimes, right?

Out of many possibilities, I chose this dress to illustrate my point about the First Lady and her color choices.  Each individual color on this dress may well work for her- worn separately.  They’re perhaps a trifle bland for her, a little washed out.  The print is not my taste to begin with, and I’m not sure it really does the First Lady any favors.  Some have dubbed this the “slipcover dress,” but I think that’s rather rude of them.  Even if it isn’t her best look.  We can’t win them all!

First Lady Michelle Obama injects more glamor into the White House than it has seen since the days of Jackie Kennedy.  She’s not a pampered socialite, she’s not a model, she’s not a young woman in years despite her athleticism and vigor.  She’s a normal woman who does the best with what she has.  I think that’s why I admire her so much- because she’s a woman who quite obviously does the very best she can with her life and the opportunities she has.  This goes beyond clothes.

This is my current favorite First Lady dress, the one she wore to deliver a speech at the DNC last month.  Some of her words have stuck in my mind since then-

If farmers and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire…if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores…if women could be dragged to jail for seeking the vote…if a generation could defeat a depression, and define greatness for all time…if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream…and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream.

Because in the end, more than anything else, that is the story of this country – the story of unwavering hope grounded in unyielding struggle.

I know it’s easy to get caught up in all the noise and conflicting opinions surrounding the election, but I keep going back to that- we can vote, we have our nation and our rights because of the struggles of those who have come before us.  This is no small thing.  People died so we can have what we have- and what are we doing with our hard-won rights?  It’s not just heros and legends who make our history, it’s the ordinary people the First Lady speaks of who looked around at their world and thought they could make it a better place.

We can make our world a better place.

At the risk of being bossy, please vote, Americans.  It’s your choice who you vote for, not mine (I voted a few weeks ago), but vote because the simple act of exercising your rights validates those unyielding struggles of which the First Lady spoke.

What do you think?  Saturated colors best on the First Lady?  Which is your favorite dress?  Did I leave one out you love?  Which one?  I have other Color concept posts, but it was fun to cyber-stalk the First Lady and tease out her color theories… Should I do someone else next?  Who?

Conversant In Color: Separates

(I am sorry!  I tried posting this two evenings in a row, my wordpress would not upload photos!  I got up early this morning to try publishing, that seemed to do the trick. Except half my photos disappeared after publish.  Had to re-insert them..  Sorry!)

Previously in Coversant In Color, I focused on fabric shopping and learning to reach for solids over crazy prints for reliable sewing outcomes. Let me be clear- I don’t hate crazy prints. I don’t hate whimsy either, whimsy is my best friend.  It’s just that whimsy and I are separate people.

Bold, high-contrast stripes… I want this!

Today, I want to talk about color, separates and personal coloring.  It might be helpful to have read the other posts in this series:

This is another more “practical” guide than a conceptual post.

Separates In the Wardrobe

A “separate” refers to a top and a bottom.  A tee with jeans, a wrap top with a circle skirt, a blouse with a pencil skirt, a chic knit top tunic with skinny cut pants.

Simple wardrobe, for “contrast” dressing. Click for source.

These serve as the main garments worn on the body, but are usually accessorized with belts, bags, shoes and jewelry.  I think it’s pretty easy to overlook accessories but they often make the difference between “putting on clothes” and “dressing.”  I do both, and I would guess you do too. But that’s a topic many others besides me have covered.  (Favorite accessories links in comments?)

Putting together separates that will work well together isn’t cut and dried, and depends on Instead, I recommend thinking about your personality, personal coloring, and the statemen while you consider three “Colored Separates Types.”

Type 1: Contrast and Drama

High-contrast personal coloring craves a wardrobe with sharp color contrast between separates.  I read this in a book called Color Me Beautiful.  That concept stuck in my head because it explained to me why I found it hard to wear a pastel top and khaki pants.  Or tones of one color.  It never seemed to work well for me.

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My own coloring is dark hair, light skin and light eyes.  If there’s a big difference between the shades of your coloring (natural or otherwise), chances are you’ll look most “put together” in separates that contrast with one another.  I understand that “high contrast” dressing also works well for those who have very dark skin because the whites of the eyes contrast beautifully with darker skin tones.

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In fact, as far as I can tell from observation, I think those with very dark skin can pretty much wear any colors they like.  (Tell me if I’m wrong!  I’m curious, so I’ve been looking around.)

Click for source- great blog post about ways to wear black skirts and white tops.

This doesn’t mean the colors chosen for the separates have to clash.  Dressing for contrast means that each garment reads as a separate color when you look in the mirror.  You might want a belt to finish off a look, but you don’t “need” it to create a focal point for the outfit.

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Suggested prints: bold abstracts, including wide stripes in contrasting colors, geometric shapes, or prints on a high-contrast background.

High-contrast dressing is also recommended for those with somewhat dramatic personalities- if your coloring isn’t high contrast but you have a big personality, go ahead and try it!

Type 2: Blending and Calm

For those with coloring that blends together, you’ll look nice in separates with colors that “blend” into one another.  This echoes the harmony in your own personal coloring.  It doesn’t have to mean wearing one color from head to toe.  Instead, it’s choosing colors and prints that blend together without contrasting too sharply with one another.

From Style Bubble- Click for Source

This doesn’t mean blending into the wallpaper!  Take your knowledge of what colors work well for you and find the “families” you like within those colors.

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For example: If brown is a color you can wear, you’ll look great with a deeper dark chocolate color on bottom and a caramel colored top.  A deep red skirt with a same-toned deep pink top could look effortlessly understated.

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Suggested prints: Abstract prints in “tone on tone” colors.  Stripes and other geometric shapes are also great, look for smaller shapes and colors that harmonize gently.  Florals usually work very well for this type of coloring.  Floral prints often don’t have enough “punch” for high-contrast coloring, but suit blending and calm dressers quite well.

Click for great article on “monochromatic” dressing- I consider this “blend” dressing. Monochromatic is next…

This look is also useful for “going incognito”- if you want to fly under the radar, blend in and go about your daily life.  Use of color is key here- neutrals for “in cognito” and the colors that suit you best for “understated”.

Type 3: Monochromatic

“True” Monochromatic, at least by my reckoning- Style Bubble Again, click for source

Monochromatic dressing fascinates me.  It’s often spotted on female politicians and world leaders.  I consider “monochromatic” to mean the same color from head to toe, even accessories in most cases.  Wearing different tones of the same color belongs to Type 2- at least to my way of thinking.  Monochromatic dressing is an assault of a single color.

Click for source- silly article

Hilary Clinton- very often seen sporting brilliantly colored suits.

The Queen’s Pantone Chart!

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  • Angela Merkel- Usually wears a bright blazer, often a suit.

  • Yulia Tymoshenko- Former Prime Minister of Ukraine, often seen in 1 color head-to-to, usually a quiet shade.  Also sports avante garde fashion.

Apparently, monochromatic dressing can make you look slimmer, taller, and by now it probably cures cancer.  Here’s what I like about it- monochromatic dressing makes a very strong visual statement of power and self-confidence.  A long block of any color will always draw the eye- even black (and sometimes, especially black!).

Many of these female politicians work in pretty masculine settings.  Men who wear black suits, sometimes blue.  Against this masculine backdrop, the female politicians clad in bright colors stand out even more than they might without the sea of dark suits.  They’re not lost in the crowd, the crowd of powerful men is their backdrop.

Some of Thatcher’s suits from the 70′s just sold for $31,799

While these women might dress to make a visual statement (so people can easily spot you in the crowd/on tv/ in the news), they don’t seem to be dressing this way to look slimmer or taller.  I suspect they’d use different cuts in that case.  In some cases, these colors aren’t necessarily “their” colors.  These women leaders transcend fashion rules because they influence the world in other ways.

(I know some critics bag them for it, but I just can’t listen to anyone badmouth a smart, hard-working woman on the basis of her clothes.)

Can I talk about age?  I’m only 27, but I hang out with a fair few women older than me and I hear things.  They’re interesting people, I keep my ears open.  One thing I’ve heard about repeatedly is the invisibility that comes from being a woman of a certain age. You feel like no one sees you, you are unnoticed and therefore unimportant.  Color will get you noticed, and if the Queen can do it and still be a lady, so can you!

I don’t think Hilary Clinton is the only strong, confident older woman in the world.  Why not use color to signal confidence and power in your dressing?  I really like the monochromatic look on an older woman, and have long puzzled why it tends to suit older women so well.  This look isn’t limited to pants suits, either.

It’s Power.  Wisdom.  Confidence.  That’s monochromatic dressing for you, when done well.

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If you’re a younger person dabbling in monochrome, I’d suggest keeping the cut simple and cleavage/legs to a minimum.  Monochromatic dressing is powerful, eyes will be drawn to you.  If you’re also showing some skin, you may look like you’re trying too hard to get noticed.  Skin + monochrome = “look at me!  look at me!  look at meeeeeeeeee! No one paid me enough attention when I was 4!!”

Your Turn!

Which type do you tend to follow?  What do you think about monochromatic dressing?

I have some ideas for the next posts exploring color and wardrobing, what would you like?  A discussion and guide to choosing tones and shades on intensity?  A look at the Hippocratic method (please, please!)?  Accessories and color?  Or something else?

Also— OH!  So excited!  I got Annele’s package from MakeBra!  She slipped me an extra!  One size is my “size” according to the traditional measurement method.  The other two are sizes taking into consideration my bust-proportion issues.  The larger underwires are exactly the shape I need, so I’ll try those two first.  The cup sizes should be the same, with different bands.  I’ll get to dabbling a bit in the evenings this week, and be sure to let you know what happens!  I’ve never sewn a bra before!!

Conversant In Color: Buying Fabric Part 2

This is part 2 of the Conversant In Color: Buying Fabric post from earlier this week.

Colors: Gather your friends

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If you don’t know what colors work best for you, check out my posts on Warm/Cool and what that means, Observing Your Favorites, and Harmonizing with Your Environment.  I don’t have a slick system for choosing colors, I think the process is too individual for that.  Time and observation are your best bets.

Once you have an idea of a few colors that work for you and you want to apply that to sewing with a purpose, you’ll need to assemble some colors into a “team.”  These are the colors you shop for.

Simple = attainable

  • Start with a neutral- black/white/ivory/khaki/brown/raisin/navy.  Pick one to build your wardrobe around.  It is the anchor.  I suggest picking the one that suits your personal coloring, your taste and your environmental needs the best.
  • Fill in two other colors that you favor the most.
  • Then choose ONE accent color- this can be a color you LOVE but can’t wear much, or a brighter-than-usual shade.  This keeps things simple.

Here’s mine for Summer 2013:

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If you’ve been keeping an eye on me for a while, you’ll notice it’s very much the same as Summer 2012.  I leaned heavily on bright reds and blues, with aqua and pink for accents.  This year, I’d like to lean on blues/aquas/seafoam and introduce some gold/yellow/orange as an accent color.  This will help me refresh my Summer 2012 wardrobe with new pieces that I can mix in easily.

These colors worked really well for me- my temperament, environment and lifestyle. Oh yes, and with my coloring!  I used white as my neutral then, and white is my neutral this summer.  I like it.  Besides, I need to replace some of my ruined whites.

Keep It Simple, Sugar

I plan my fabric shopping like some plan their grocery trips.  The planning prevents over-buying and simplifies the process of sewing outfits and dressing myself.   At the same time, I try to stay flexible.

This is a very, very simple breakdown of how to use color in wardrobe planning- intended as a starting point (I used my colors from the palette above):

  • Neutral: Workhorse garments- 40-60% of the sewing.  Tops, bottoms, and a jacket/vest/topper.
  • Color 1: 25-30% of your fabrics. The best color near your face.  Shop for shades or tones of the same color to avoid looking too monochromatic or “matchy.”  This color should look well with your neutral, as well as your face.
  • Color 2: 20-25% of your fabrics.  This is a color you like, looks ok on you, and one that works well with Color 1.  If you feel timid use a complementary color, like the seafoamy teal in my wardrobe palette.  If you feel a little more confident, go for a contrasting color, like the red I used.
  • Accent Colors: These will make up about 5%-10% of your sewing fabrics, if that.  An accent color may be any color you like that mixes well with your other colors.  I’m choosing yellow/orange as my summer accents because I like them but can’t wear much of those colors.

The Importance of an Accent Color:

When I’m sewing a wardrobe I may need just a tiny bit of color on a project- maybe threads, buttons, embellishment, or a nice clash-y lining.  It’s nice to have some accent colors already in mind and to hand, and using a consistent accent color creates continuity in the sewing.

This also makes it simpler for me to thrift for belts and bags.  If it’s my accent color, decent quality and a good price, it goes home with me.  If it’s one of my other colors, I might consider it.  Otherwise, it stays put even if it is a steal.  I don’t need that much stuff in my house.

click for photo source

Challenge:

Use four colors in your wardrobe- Color 1 + a complement and Color 2 + a complement.  The trick is to make sure all the colors are wearable together, even if you wouldn’t necessarily wear them every day.  Try working with a larger wardrobe concept, too.  Do set yourself a few basic guidelines so you don’t end up with five tops and no bottoms! (Unless that’s what you need, then do it.)

Basic Wardrobe Planning for Beginners:

If you’re new to the process of wardrobing, I suggest starting with:

  • a basic topper with a bottom in a neutral (a suit, or a casual jacket/cardi and a bottom) (Use the Neutral Color)
  • a simple blouse/tee (Use Color 1)
  • a more “interesting” blouse/tee (Use Color 2)
  • another bottom (Use Color 1 or 2)
  • maybe with a dress in a color/fabric that harmonizes with the rest.

This would give you two tops, two bottoms, a “topper” and maybe a dress.  That’s eight outfits.  (Did I count right?)  If the idea of sewing a “topper” sounds scary and weird, then don’t sew it.  With the dress, that’s still 5 different outfits.

This is manageable.

Mix it Up with Prints

Find a print that uses more or less the same colors you like to wear/look best on you.  Be sure to buy it in an appropriate weight for your project- lighter, softer fabrics up top and heavier or more textured fabrics below.  In general.  You could build your color story for a wardrobe around a great print, and don’t forget the neutral!

I know we had a LOT to say about the use of novelty prints and quilting cotton for apparel sewing last time. I did not intend to create guilt or raise any hairs- just a simple bit of advice because I’ve been there.  Switching to solids/stripes/checks was the one thing that lifted the overall tone of my sewing.  Dramatically.

I LOVE prints, when used well.  If you want, I can work up a nice post about that…  Some also asked for information about fibers.  I’ve written about them extensively in the past, I can look back through the archives and re-publish/re-work/update those articles as a regular series.  Yes?

Speaking of improving the overall tone of sewing- did you see Tanit-Isis’ post on Homemade Legitimacy?  She builds a good argument for striving for sewing excellence while questioning the standards we hold ourselves to as sewists.

Sunni is rallying the troops to sew wearable wardrobes that provide free range of motion, too!  Everyone is doing it! “The Everyday Wardrobe is about building that wardrobe that you can wear every. single. day. And feel good in, look good in and still move in.”

What do you think?  Would you put color together in a wardrobe differently?  How do you do it?  Which of this week’s palettes catches your eye?

Be sure to vote for the Tiramisu Covergirl’s name!  Penelope is ahead by a small margin.  I think you can vote as many times as you like, though it only counts as one entry in the Polka Dot Jersey Giveaway!  It closes in four hours, so do get in!

Next: Tira Lady Named and The Winner, with an online source for navy or red polka dot cotton (limited supply!)

Later: Lila’s wardrobe project progress- A Trio of Tiny Shorts and Quantifying My Sewing