Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Elegant Problem

Does the vintage excitement here never end??

As it happens, a little while ago, I read Casey's post on some family-heirloom vintage patterns she recently received. This was one of the many gems:

Simplicity 4538, image courtesy of Casey's Elegant Musings

I was immediately enthralled. How chic, how body con, how (um) boxy in the construction. Those mid-century sewists really had it going on!

I searched online. I didn't find it. I even spoke with friends about this fascinating pattern I came across that's basically a square with holes for your head and arms. Just 2 seams! It went over well...

To compound the matter, Casey actually posted a photo of the finished garment today, and I almost climbed through the computer screen to snatch it from her then and there. (That sounds violent, I realize. I mean it only in the most pacific way.)

Oh, how I LOVE it!

It looks old fashioned, but not costume-y. It's got a great line. As a person of narrowish shoulders, it's just the kind of line that flatters me.

Fortunately, one of the commenters on Casey's latest post included a link to a similar vintage pattern: the Vintage Magic Blouse. I decided to spring for the pdf ($3.99 USD) and a minute later I had a new item for the metaphoric Sew List. Note that the pdf is just 2 pages of instruction. It doesn't include a bunch of 8.5x11 pages to tape together. It just tells you how to make the top, which includes some tubular knit having 54"circumference. (Note: Tubular knit is simply a width of fabric that's attached in a tube. That means it doesn't have any side seams. It's like a big cowl, if that makes any sense. Or a tube that a knitter would knit in the round.)

OK, I thought. I can get with this. I called a few of my usual stores in the garment district to ask about the availability of fabric that fits that description. Apparently, there's no challenge finding tube knits in that size range, but they're all variations on cotton aka t shirt knit aka not chic for a vintage garment!

Finally I asked the guy at King Textiles why I couldn't find myself a nice cashmere or merino. (I've noticed, in the past, the dearth of fine textiles in tube format.) And here's what he told me: You can't find tube fabric in luxe knits in Canada because, by and large, Canada doesn't mill fabric. It imports fabric.

Can you believe that cashmere tube knit is mega expensive to import and the demand just isn't that high? Honestly, the worst thing about living in Canada is trying to get stuff. You'd think we were in Australia. (Note to Australians: No offense! You're just kind of far away, and we're right here! All 12 of us.)

So, now my immediate life goal is to source some luxurious fabric having the kind of drape that will lend itself to constructing the Magic Blouse.

Please help.

If you live in Europe or if you know of some Euro based online vendor - or even an US one that sells tube knit in high-end textiles - pls. advise. I'd love to know how to source this stuff.

The more I sew, the more I learn that I am only limited by the textiles available to me. And, being in the middle of a distribution wasteland, I have to expand my horizons.

25 comments:

  1. Oh. Dear. God. Don't I hear you about the trials and tribulations of living in a "distribution wasteland". I have no insight into how to source the luxe tube knit - I'm just commiserating here. How is it that the largest Canadian city lacks demand for so many goods? Oh that’s right; the largest Canadian city is tiny by comparison. Ugh! And by the way, I've tried posting comments a few times over the past couple of weeks but blogger just kept presenting major roadblocks. Don’t get me started blogger…

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    1. Thanks for telling me you've been having challenges. I changed my comment format. Have you been trying to comment from work, by any chance. This system can be tricky on work computers for some reason. Think it has to do with security settings.

      I'm so sick of not being able to find what I'm looking for. Maybe it's like the old days when this top would have been made. I'm so curious to know if those expert vintage sewists had access to fine textiles, or if it was a lot of crap and a few gems.

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  2. We have this killer gigantico fabric warehouse in MN that stocks tons of designer fabrics, and I never see luxe wool on tubes. In fact, when I find wool jersey at all I squee to ridiculousness.

    I almost climbed through the computer myself to examine her cut rectangle closer to knock off that elegant pattern. I'm off to examine the download now...

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    1. Laura: So it's not just here, apparently! All luxe jerseys are very far and few between. If only we had the bead on where to get those...

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  3. Hee hee.

    Ok, much as I adore tube-knits (much better cutting layouts available), I'm a bit confused why you need one for this blouse, unless you're trying to avoid the vertical seam on the upper back as you can see on Casey's pattern. The way she describes it, it's just a rectangle, stitched into a tube and then with one side stitched up except for the ends where you put your arms through. Frankly, the kind of pattern that it annoys me that they even make patterns for (I fully applaud the directions method on the pattern you actually got). Anyway---I think you can TOTALLY make this with a not-tube. You may end up with an extra seam here or there, but considering how few seams this shirt has to begin with, another one won't break it. (I don't see why, if you need an extra-long rectangle, you couldn't seam it at the lower back (i.e. the middle of the rectangle) as well as the upper back (which is the ends of the rectangle.)

    ... just my (opinionated) $.02 ;)

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    1. OK, the more I think about it, the more I know I don't. I just WANT it to be available because that's what this pattern calls for. And I'm so pissed off about the dearth of good options.

      I totally agree that no actual pattern is required. I mean, it's a square. Instructions will do.

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    2. Ok, I totally feel you on that. It pisses me off no end that I can't source decent stretch denim locally---honestly, there's not much available to me here that I wouldn't have in Saskatoon. Which is just sad.

      According to my Grandma, fabric shopping (at least out west) was just as bad in the old days, though---you either bought what you could get at the department store in town, or ordered from catalogues and didn't really know what you were getting.

      But you really would expect better in Toronto, at least, wouldn't you? :P

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  4. I was fabric browsing online, and Paron's fabric in NYC has a specific fabric request form. I do not have personal experience, but it looks like you could contact them and see how it works out? This is the link: http://www.paronfabrics.com/order_request.htm. Would the seam be really visible or could you get away with making your own pseudo-tube? -- Mona (I apologize for posting as anonymous, but I do not have a better account to post.)

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    1. Hey Mona: I've looked at Paron's online shop (I think it's Manhattan Fabrics?) and I wasn't blown away by the options. I will make my own tube, the more I think about it. I'll have better options in fabric and the extra seam won't make too much of a difference (see my reply to rosesred below). Thanks for your comment.

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  5. You don't need tube knit for this. I made one of these when I first learned to sew, out of flat knit. You'll just have one more seam. As I recall, you cut a rectangle that's approx. 140 cm by 40 cm (sorry, no idea what that is in inches), you sew the short edges together to get a tube. Then you lay the fabric tube on a flat surface, with the seam you just sewed in the middle. Now you sew the top seam of the tube, starting 15 cm out of one side, and you stop 15 cm before reaching the opposite edge. Lying flat, your garment now looks like a rectangle, with one seam in the middle, the top seam closed except for 20 cm. on either edge, and the bottom open. Those holes are your armholes, finish them however you'd like. Finish all other open edges. Put your armes through the holes, one seam will lie horizontally on your back, one seam will be vertical and pointing down.

    Hope that helps.

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    1. This is an incredibly helpful comment. Thank you! I realize that I could just make my own tube, but I was concerned about the extra seam somehow ending up on one of the arm holes. I don't know why, now that I think about it...

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  6. I feel your pain about not being able to find fabrics. I live in a sewing "heavy" area (lots of Holdermans and Amish) and finding nice fabric is still difficult (especially if you don't want polyester). That looks like a really cool pattern though, I can't wait to see how yours turns out. :-)

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    1. B: What's that about? There should be more access!

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  7. I went thru the same set of emotions when I saw Casey's awesome top. Sooo lovely. I will second TanitIsis' suggestion - I think you can make it with a flat fabric. But I'll keep my eye out for tube knits. I don't really see them here much either, but I've never specifically looked.

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    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one! Thanks for keeping an eye open. The more I've been reading these comments, the more I realize a) it really isn't necessary and b) I'm not alone in some futile searching.

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  8. Try Super Kawaii Mama, bet she knows!

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    1. Ha! Alright, point well taken my Aussie friend.

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  9. Karen - I saw the comment you left and I would tell you to buy the fabric. Getting ready to post about the two pieces I made from the fabric now so look for it.

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  10. Hey C: Thank you for the fast feedback. Just placed the order. And I can't wait to hear about those pieces. I've been waiting.

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  11. I bought wool tube knit once at Mood in NYC but I dont know the width. It might be worth contacting Elliott Berman or Rosen and Chaddick in NYC as they have a lot of gorgeous fabrics that you don't see everywhere as well as great customer service

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    1. Thanks for the tip. I'll look them up!

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  12. Kristin, that design is very sexy, perfect for you. I really hope you find an excellent knit for this project.

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    1. I did get a fun lavender sweater knit. The drape should work well. It's not in the textile I'd prefer (pure wool or cashmere) but it's very nice for a synthetic. And it's washable!

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  13. How deflating, to have such a great idea and to experience such trouble executing it. I hope you find what you need. Let me know if I can help.

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    1. Thanks E! I've decided I'm never buying fabric online again. Until I forget.

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