Thursday, March 7, 2013

Considering Koos

When we mix fabrics together, we can call that color blocking or print blocking or patchwork or collage and even though the terms have vastly different connotations and varying degrees of sophistication and success, they all mean using more than one fabric. Koos van den Akker is an expert at using more than one fabric.

This book about his work - Koos Couture Collage: Inspiration & Techniques - was published in 2002 and most likely that's when I bought it since it's been on my shelf for years. I love the vibrancy,  freedom, and detail of his work but I've always thought it had too much of a wearing my quilt overtone until...

... I saw this coat in Marcy and Katherine's talk at Sew Expo. It had flow and drape and was not at all quilt-like which made me curious about his other patterns and what they'd be like toned down. I knew it could be done successfully because of the coat Shams sewed in the fall of 2010. GORGEOUS.

The skirt - Vogue 2971 - was also in the fashion show. What I loved about it was...

... the tuck at the back. It has attitude. In this posting on Koos' site, you can see the version I saw. It's priced at $1,800.00. Here's...

... another version from his website. What a gorgeous mix of patterns and textures and obviously made in size very small so I went to to see if there were other versions closer to my size.

This one is by arianamaniacs. I love the visual texture and movement in the fabrics chosen. There's enough interest without too much to overwhelm the design lines and this version...

... by sarahinlafayette successfully uses a stripe. She placed the tuck at the back much lower. Before I played with that pattern, I wanted to try a version of Vogue 1244 below. I'm curious about patterns that are made of many bits because I see that as a way to explore surface design. Since the fabrics will get cut up and re-stitched together any less than stellar results will be less obvious. It seems like a great way to facilitate the learning curve.

With this pattern, I'd need to play with gauze. The fabrics suggested are Georgette, Batiste, or Charmeuse meaning very light-weight and it definitely means it. There is a tremendous amount of fabric and the sizes differ by only 1" front and back. As drafted, the size 14 was almost 80" around at the waist which is then gathered with elastic to whatever size you are. That's a lot of gathering and I am definitely not normally a size fourteen through the hips.

I used a very lightweight polyester and look how bulky it is ! ! ! and this is AFTER altering the size of the upper rectangles and reducing the width of the strips by cutting off the seam allowances and sewing with an edge of the presser foot seam allowance. Still a lot. Once the elastic was in, I couldn't stretch it to the full width of the casing to distribute the gathers evenly.

There's also extra bulk at the waist because the skirt is intended to be reversible and is sewn as one long tube that is then folded in half wrong sides together matching the two ends which are then pressed down to form a casing.  The reversible part doesn't make sense to me because the same fabrics are on both sides. It'd have been a lot easier to have a front and a lining which is what I'd do in the future.

Above, it's more flattering on Millicent than on me but there's enough interest there for me to play with. After taking this picture, I cut off the waistband (the skirt was too long anyway) and began playing with tucks and darts to reduce the waist circumference. Those combined with elastic in a sewn on casing should make it more flattering. When I fold the tube back together, I'll shift the bubble over more. In the picture above, the shift is 6" and next time I'll try seven or eight. I tied a scrap of fabric around the waist to see whether I wanted to sew the belt and the look was vastly improved with it which seemed to indicate that the belt is a critical element of the design although I can't see myself with a bow on the tummy.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful -  the courage to cut off the waistband and keep going and the excitement and energy that comes from doing that


  1. Very cool start to what promises to be a gratifying project, Myrna. I'm a big fan of Koos, too although I haven't made any of his Vogue Patterns. I admired the projects you've referred to in your post as well. I especially loved the blue coat Shams made and that striped skirt is a really interesting take on that skirt pattern. I did make a vest using some of the techniques shown in the book (great inspiration in there, btw!). It was way out of my usual sewing comfort zone as well as way artier than things I usually wear, but a very freeing project in many respects. I'm looking forwarding to watching what you do with your Koos project.

    1. Very freeing. Yes. And stimulating too. I think it's good to get way out of our comfort zone once in a while, to experiment, learn, see what happens and then to think about how we can adapt that learning to what will work for us.

      The skirt is tucked to a smaller waist size and I'm just about to make the tie. It looks okay only there's still too much ease on the hips for me to be totally comfortable wearing it and that's okay. I've been thinking about how to adapt the idea to a shape that does work. That's the great take-away.

  2. I have that skirt pattern; great tip re: lining it instead of having it be reversible. And I had wondered about that coat pattern, so it's good to hear that it drapes/flows well. I may have to buy it @ the next Joanne's Vogue pattern sale!

    1. Look at the pieces really carefully before cutting out. To me, pieces 10 and 11 need to total the same width as 12 and 13 and they don't so either I read something wrong or there is a misprint in my version of the pattern. I've had it for a while. Also, if you're going to replace with a lining, note that 10/11 are shorter than 12/13 and you don't want to cut the tube right at the half point because you need the fashion fabric to tuck up underneath. Totally doable to change to a lining.

      The coat was gorgeous in person. The pattern is worth investing in as would be the quality of fabric needed to have that drape. Do you ever buy Vogue on-line? The BMV Club sales are wonderful - 3.99 - 4.99 for Vogue. Right now, OOP patterns are on for 2.99.

  3. hi Myrna! this mite sound like it's coming from out of left field, but have you ever looked at The Triumph of Individual Style by Mason Mathis and Villa Cononr? the book, not the consulting system inspired by it. The authors address figure/face/colour flattery from the perspective of art and design principles, all illustrated with western art classics. I thought of you because of your long experience with surface design, and how you're now melding that with making clothing that you would pry find their ideas very interesting.

    I find that making clothing that flatters my own physical characteristics really narrows my focus and takes away that 'overwhelm' which (for me) results from 'the blank page'. It also suggests new avenues as well as making many choices pretty obvious.

    Plus i come from a long line of very vain women ;) Anyways, FWIW (and older copies pop up for reasonable prices if you keep an eye out). Have fun with your skirt!!! steph

    1. Not out of left field at all. I appreciate the recommendation. The Triumph of Individual Style is one of my all time favourite books. LOVE it. It's the book that pointed out why I look best in small, soft prints with the motifs closer together and why I like tone on tone texture. I learned a lot about shapes from it and what lines will flatter my figure. It's fabulous and one to read over and over. The other book I really value is Looking Good from Palmer/Pletsch, especially the information about line and proportion.

      I'm learning to be braver and to just try different styles and see what happens even if I think that style most likely won't work. In part so that I don't get stuck in a rut and in part because you just never know.

      While this Vogue skirt that I'm working on will most likely be too full through the hips, I wanted to try it and see because I have another pattern with a similar shape that's a favourite. For me, that's how I learn and then I can take the learning in new directions. Always good.

  4. Oh, that new Koos coat is to die for. I bought the pattern because I love the idea of overlaying the base fabric with a knit. Very clever, that Koos.
    Good for you, for going off in a new direction in your sewing.

    1. It was gorgeous in person. The fabric really made the difference. Now I want the pattern to see what you mean about the overlay.

      The skirt is finished. Details tomorrow. It turned out pretty good.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.