Monday, November 4, 2013

Mixed Print Challenge - Koos Style!

Linking up (just under the wire) with Patti's Visible Monday!


The seventh challenge was pretty straightforward:

Using at least two prints, coordinate them to make an outfit. Use only the fabric prints you have chosen to make your pieces.

Now this challenge is right up my alley!

I love to mix prints. Almost immediately, I thought of a pattern that I've been wanting to make for years, Vogue 2971. It is a Koos Van Den Akker pattern released (I believe) in 2007. In fact, this pattern is now OOP. I didn't have a copy of the pattern in my current size, so Margy very kindly overnight'ed me her copy which is, ironically, no longer in her size.

I had fun last Thursday at Stone Mountain & Daughter looking for fabrics for this ensemble - though it took awhile. The wrap top calls for a 2-way knit. The skirt calls for three woven fabrics, plus knit strips - on the envelope, the pattern uses strips from the same knit used in the top. This gives the outfit cohesion, and I followed suit.

I used a striped ponte knit for the top and three quilting fabrics for the skirt. At first, I planned to use African fabrics for the skirt, but I couldn't find three that were quite right together. I then looked at the batiks and had the same problem. I finally found the black/white/red Alexander Henry print that I used for the central applique, and that became the focal point for the rest of the black and white fabrics.

Koos Van Den Akker

I love the work of designer Koos Van Den Akker!

Born in the Netherlands (Dutch printed fabrics are some of the most beautiful in the world), Koos may well have absorbed his print mixing tendencies in utero. He has been living, and creating, in New York City for many years. In fact, he was famous for designing the wild sweaters that Bill Cosby favored in The Cosby Show back in the 80s.

But that is old news. Koos is actively designing clothing that can be purchased at his NYC boutique and some of his designs make their way to Vogue patterns. I've been a fan of his Facebook page for a long time now and it is choc full of photos of his recent work. (He also has a website.)

Koos is absolutely fearless about mixing prints and textures. He also loves to manipulate fabric to create new textures. Here are a few recent examples of his work:

Two of my favorite makes are Koos patterns. (Clicking each picture takes you to the corresponding blog post.)

Alterations and Modifications

For the top, I made a size 16. The top is a bit over-sized and you might want to go down a size. I could definitely go down to a 14 and maybe even a 12 next time. (There will be a next time.)

  • The boat neck is very deep and wide. When I held the pattern tissue to my body, I could see that once I narrowed the shoulder at the armscye, the resulting shoulder seam would be 1/2" wide. Far too wide a neckline for my narrow shoulders. I transferred a high jewel neckline from another pattern. After the shoulder seams were sewn, I then marked where I wanted the neckline to be (on the garment itself), and cut it down. I cut it down maybe 1-1/4" from the center front and center back.
  • Changing the front and back neckline
  • I narrowed by shoulders by 1-1/4".
  • Since I changed the neckline, I didn't use the pattern piece for the neck binding. I use Sarah Veblen's neckline method and cut a 1-1/2" bias strip from the ponte.
  • I do not have a tiny waist. I lengthened the ties by 8". If needed, I can always cut them down later.
  • Lengthening the ties by 8"

  • The pattern, which came out in 2007, instructs you to hem the bottom and the ties. I used a stable, non-raveling, ponte knit and didn't want that bulk, so I left the hems raw edged.
  • I did hem the sleeves. They call for a 1/2" hem, but I hemmed them at 1".
  • I did not do an FBA, as this pattern is generously cut and it was not necessary.

For the skirt, I made a size 12. My hips, according to Vogue, are a size 10. My waist, according to Vogue, is a size 18. But I measured the finished waist on the size 12 and it was about 34", which is enough ease for my 32" waist. (The hips on the pattern are far more than 34", so I was fine there, too.)

  • Given that there was enough ease for my waist and hips, I omitted the back zipper. I cut the back yoke on the fold.
  • The pattern calls for an elasticized waist. I used my own pattern piece for that.
  • I pinned the front yoke to the center front pattern piece and held it up to my body. It dragged on the floor. I am 5'5" and this skirt is *very* long. The pattern does not tell you how to lengthen or shorten it, and the pattern has a very shaped, very unusual hem, making it difficult to shorten after the fact, so I had to figure out how to shorten it before cutting it out. I first shortened the center front piece (#6) by 4".

  • The yoke front (#5) is pinned to the front (#6). I have folded out 4" of length from the front.

  • There is a little dot about 8-1/2" up from the hem on both sides of the center front (#6) piece. I had to remark that on the pattern (because it was in the area I had folded out). This is a *critical* dot, so make sure you remember to include it on the pattern, and to mark it on the fabric. (The most critical markings on this pattern are the large and small circles. Mark all of those.)

  • I had folded out the small circle, so I remarked it (the little black dot).

  • Next, I had to figure out how the rest of the pattern went together. It is *highly* non-intuitive: you are sewing straight lines around square corners six times during construction. I finally figured out that the other place I had to shorten was on the Lower Front and Back pattern piece (#12), in the long direction. However, you want to shorted 4" at the side seam, but the side seam is slightly curved. This translated to removing 3-7/8" from the vertical direction.

  • Lower Front and Back (#12), shortened by 3-7/8" in the long direction

  • I also had to shorten the front applique (#7). I had already cut it out, and I laid it on the skirt front, after attaching the front yoke to the center front. I decided to remove only 2" (despite shortening the skirt by 4"), and I removed it from the top of that pattern piece.

  • Removing 2" from the top of the applique (#7), which I had already cut out

  • Finally, I had to shorten the "spaghetti" strings, cut from the striped knit, that snake around on the front applique. I cut these to the original length of the pattern, laid them on the front in my designed design, and only trimmed them to length once I had positioned them and was sure of the desired length. Each of them ended up being slighty different lengths.
  • The applique is designed to be cut on the bias. You attach it to the front after the yoke has been attached to the lower front with a gently curved seam. The bias makes it easier to work with the non-flat surface. However, I really wanted to cut the applique out on grain, so that I used the red print to its maximum effect. I managed to make it work, but it was more difficult and I don't recommend it.
  • The only other modification I made was due to a slight cutting error. The largest pattern piece, Lower Front and Back (#12), is to be cut on the fold at CB. I didn't have enough fabric to do this, so I had to introduce a CB seam.

This pattern is fairly quick to sew up. Once I had completed the alterations on the top, and matched the stripes on cutting it out, it sewed up lickety split. The skirt, while a bit mind bending on how it goes together, really isn't that time consuming either. I started this project on Saturday morning. I cut and sewed almost the entire skirt on Saturday. (I realized late Saturday, when everything was finished (including the long hem), except for the waistband, that I hadn't put on the little snakes on the front applique. That was lucky because you want to do that before attaching the waistband.) On Sunday, I completed the snakes, the waistband, the pattern alterations for the top, and made the top.

The entire outfit in one weekend, though it was after dark when I finished. Not too shabby! (I had to wait until after work on Monday to take the pics.)


I love this outfit! I will definitely make the top again. I'd love it in solid black and maybe in a few other colors. I will have to play with a smaller size. When you put it on, it requires a bit of manipulation to get everything just so, but I think it will be fun to wear.

Also, the skirt is fabulous. If you are concerned about it being too dramatic, it would still be wonderful without the front applique and snakes. In fact, it would still be wonderful made out of a single fabric.

More Pictures

Holding out the skirt. (My fingers are in the in-seam pockets.)


Vogue 2971