Thursday, 31 December 2009

Fabric Dyeing Samples

One of the things I loved learning in my costume course was dyeing fabrics. A lot of the time we used dye to create aged or dirty looking clothes that could withstand laundering (one time I had to create a pair of old, pee-stained men's underwear for a character in 'the Scottish play' - but that's another story!).

Luckily we sometimes got to play around with pretty effects too.

However I don't have the equipment at home to dye fabric and I am not very confident with colour so one technique I have embraced is discharge dyeing - sort of like reverse dyeing. Here is a project I made using this technique during my course. The fabric is silk dupion, the original colour is the purple and the gold was uncovered when I used the discharge technique.

The beauty of discharge dyeing is the colour you end up with was there all along so it always 'goes' with the original fabric. You can use any technique such as tie-dye or shibori and you simply remove colour from the original fabric rather than adding a new colour on top.

So why all this pondering about dyes? Well, I have a wedding to go to at the end of January, it's another of my fella's friends so I can't wear the dress I wore to the last wedding I went to (I suppose I could, but you know how it is I'm sure!). I have been a bit stuck as to what to wear so I've been re-reading all my books and magazines but it was during the most recent episode of Gossip Girl (don't judge me, I only watch for the clothes!) that I saw this dress on Leighton Meester aka Blair.
Image from here. I have no idea who the designer is, but I'd love to know.

That was my lightbulb moment as they say. I took myself off to Fabulous Fabrics (I have a $100 voucher that I got when I left my job in July) and bought some 10cm samples of various shades of silk dupion. Sampling is REALLY important, since you don't know what you are going to get - and sometimes it is not what you were hoping for!

I bought indigo-navy, chartreuse and two shades of turquoise for my tests. I used RIT colour remover, which I have used on silk before, so I know it's safe. You can use bleach in various dilutions on other fabrics such as cotton but bleach makes silk turn to jelly - not a good look!
Here are all the samples together:
I really love this chartreuse sample but I didn't leave it in the solution long enough - this colour was quite stubborn.
I tried to create an ombre effect on the navy but I was impatient and the effect is much too subtle!
While I loved these two turquoise shades, the discharge technique is a bit too much like a wet look. At a wedding in the heat of summer you do not want to look like you've sweated all over your dress!
These are my two favourites, the chartreuse and navy left in the solution for much longer (or I could have used a stronger mix). The darker shades at the bottom are the original colours and the lighter shades are where the dye has been removed. There is not such a dramatic contrast as in my purple dress above but I think it is a really pleasing effect anyway.
Here are the samples on top of the original fabric:
I think either of these could work really well in a dress inspired by the gossip girl original. I would use the paler shade on the bodice and the original colour for most of the skirt, with some kind of graduation in the middle (maybe a shibori technique?). I am not sure I will go for the level of embellishment in the inspiration dress bu never say never!

Now a question. I love both of these colours a lot and can't choose between them. My fella doesn't have a preference either so what do you think? Anyone out there prefer one over the other? Please let me know as I am itching to get started on this project!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas dress 2009- Vogue V8494

Here is the dress I made to wear on Christmas this year. I wore it to dinner with my fella's family on Christmas eve and then to breakfast at my Dad's on Christmas morning and lunch at my Mum's. It looks a bit rumpled but not bad for three sit down meals and 118km of driving over the two days!

I cheated with the shoes for these photos, I actually wore flats since I was the skipper (designated driver) but don't you just love these green pumps (from Nine West if you're interested).

The pattern is Vogue V8494.

Pattern Description:
Lined dresses A, B, C, in two lengths have bodice princess seams, back zipper and a-line skirt. I originally planned to make view B, with black contrast bands but in the end I decided I didn't want to cover up any of this gorgeous print!

Pattern Sizing:
Standard. I cut a 12 to the underarms, grading out to a 14 at the waist and 16 at the hip.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
The drawing is remarkably accurate (for once).

Were the instructions easy to follow?
When I read through the instructions I thought they were a bit long-winded but went with them anyway. It turned out to be fine and even though you have to hand sew the shoulders it does give a nice finish and guarantees you'll maintain the unusual style line where the centre panel forms the straps. I put this together easily in one day (or I would have if I hadn't made a massive dumb mistake and had to unpick half the dress!).

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like the shape of a full skirt but not so full the Fremantle Doctor will leave you red-faced. It's fitted but can still accommodate a full Christmas lunch. I have no dislikes.

Fabric Used:
A beautiful printed cotton sateen that reminds me of Monet's garden (not that I've been there!). I used white cotton voile for the lining and the whole project cost less than $50 Australian.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
Don't you hate it how you fix one fitting issue and another one rears it's ugly head? In addition to my usual fba (4cm total), sway back alteration (take out 2.5cm above the waist at centre back), and narrow back alteration (take out 3cm all the way down the back - normally I would taper to nothing at the waist); this time I also had to add length to the front bodice at the shoulders. Maybe I now have a low bust on top of everything else - anyway, all I needed to do was add 1.5cm to the top of the shoulder on the front piece only. It was easy since there aren't any sleeves!

I also stayed the v-neckline with silk organza selvedge using the instructions in Clare Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques.

Step one, cut strips of selvedge 1cm shorter than the seamline on the pattern and pin in place distributing the fullness. Step two, fix in place just inside the seamline with a small running stitch.

Oh, and I used an invisible zip instead of a regular one.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I love how this dress turned out, I will almost certainly make it again. I have it in mind for a summer work dress and possibly a more 'evening' version as well. If I got invited somewhere really special I'd even make the long version.

Love it! It's comfy in the heat without looking sloppy, and was pretty easy to get together in a hurry.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Pattern Review - New Look 6750

This is the dress I made to wear to the wedding in Donnelly River, New Look 6750. Apologies for the lack of detail shots, it was made in a real hurry!

Here I am on my bushland verandah about to walk through the bush to the wedding ceremony.

Pattern Description:
Empire waist dresses with bodice, skirt and sleeve options. I made bodice B with skirt D and sleeve E.

Pattern Sizing:
I cut a 12, grading to a 14 at the hips.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, I think so. Except I lapped the sleeves back over front instead of front over back - oops! But I was in too much of a hurry to fix it.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
They were fine, it's a fairly straightforward pattern. Because the fabric is a sheer I sewed all seams with a french seam (except the armhole, which I stitched then zig zagged and trimmed). I lined the whole dress - the pattern doesn't have a lining in the skirt. I also used an invisible zip.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like all the different combinations. I think this will be a handy pattern to have.

Fabric Used:
Polyester georgette which I bought from a local designer who was selling off stock from her workroom about a year ago (maybe more).

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
No changes to the design. I made a slight fba, which I just incorporated into the under bust gathers.

I did have trouble getting the neckline to sit flat. This always happens to me on this style of neckline. I think my understitching/clipping/trimming technique needs work!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I would definitely consider making this again and I would recommend it.

It worked perfectly for the occasion - a daytime 'formal' wedding in the bush. The sleeves protected my shoulders from the sun but without making me too hot and the skirt accommodated a wonderful dinner and several glasses of champagne. Oh yeah, and it didn't get creased while travelling!

Since it turned out to be quite a cool day I wore this cardigan over the top for much of the time. In the evening I wore a tan tweed coat that I made from a vintage 60's pattern (which I have now lost - sob!) before I started blogging.

I bet you are as glad as I am not to see another olive/cream/teal creation!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Having a little rest

I thought I would feel burned out after completing my wardrobe competition entry but actually I have been feeling really motivated. Unfortunately that hasn't translated into action for the last week or so, since I am still very busy at work and come home exhausted most afternoons. Pretty soon most of my big stuff will be done and I'll be able to get ready for my two weeks off - can't wait!

My priorities in the short term are:
  • three more work tops,
  • another work skirt,
  • a dress to wear at Christmas,
  • a couple of cotton dresses for knocking about the house on hot days, and
  • A couple of presents (ONLY for people who appreciate from now on!).

I don't think this is too much to ask for the next couple of months and then of course it'll be back to my favourite time of year - autumn (or should I say 'jacket time').

Anyway, I haven't posted yet about the wedding I went to in early November so here goes. I haven't yet written a review for the dress I wore but I will do it soon. In the meantime here are some pictures of the place we stayed at.

The couple who got married are friends of my fella, he went to school with them and they have been together since year 11. I had never met the couple before (or 99% of the guests) so I was pretty nervous but everyone was really nice. There are no photos of the actual wedding since I didn't get permission to post them but rest assured it was lovely! We all stayed on site, the wedding was in pretty patch of bushland behind one of the cabins and the reception was at the community hall, all in walking distance.

The venue was a place called Donnelly River, an old mill town in the South West of WA. Here is the cottage we stayed in. I was skeptical about shared accommodation but it turned out fine.

The best part of the stay was the wildlife. There were native animals everywhere. We even saw a blue wren - which I have never seen in real life before - but I didn't have my camera handy at the time. The animals are quite used to people and you can even buy food for them at the general store. Not that I endorse 'taming' wild animals of course, but I don't think these ones rely on humans as their only food source.

There were a lot of emus around, which I was pretty scared of. Here's a baby one, not scary at all!

But this is as close as I would get to a full grown one!
There were also a lot of roos, which I am not generally fond of - only because I am terrified of hitting one with my car (which would be very bad for both of us). In this setting they were fine, I really enjoyed feeding them.
Look at this face!
Here's a pic of a joey in its mother's pouch. Depending on the time of day you would either see its head or feet poking out! BTW did you know that kangaroos can have two joeys at one time, a grown one like this and a tiny baby one? The mother produces two different kinds of milk to meet the needs of the two babies - how cool is that?

Everyone say aaaah!

Most of the time the roos just lay around in the sun!

There were also loads of native birds. Here is a photo of my fella feeding a twenty-eight parrot from his hand.
Here's a twenty-eight up close.
Okay, enough of the science lesson. I hope my non-Aussie readers enjoy these pictures but I promise a pattern review is not far away.

Monday, 30 November 2009

The jacket outfits

Rather than bore you with another 20 photos of all my outfits with the jacket here are five looks that show every garment to demonstrate the all 'go' with the jacket.

Ivory tunic and olive pants.

Cream t-shirt and navy skirt.
Teal t-shirt and taupe skirt.Floral blouse and olive skirt.
Cowl-neck top and olive pants.

Wardrobe Comp Review - McCalls M4972

The finished jacket. What do you think? I must say I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

This is the 10th and final piece for the wardrobe competition. I used McCall's M4972 (now OOP).

Pattern Description:
Princess seam jacket has trim variations and curved or squared front opening edges.

Pattern Sizing:
I made a 12.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
I sorta made view B and it more or less looks like the picture.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
I didn't use them at all. I used a combination of instructions from the two well-known threads articles on Chanel jackets. One shows the fully couture methods and the other give shortcuts.

First I sewed the vertical body seams in the shell and the lining then ditch-stitched and quilted the layers together. I sewed the shoulders seams in the jacket by machine and the lining by hand.

Next I laid on a folded bias strip of lining and hand sewed it down. Then I attached the centre of a bias strip of jacket fabric to the seam line all around the outside. I turned the seam allowances in and the two layers of tweed trim out and hand sewed the lining all around the inside edge of the jacket.

The first row of trim - bias strips of the lining laid around the edge.
I sewed the back seam in the sleeve and quilted the lining as for the body, then sewed the front seam of the jacket by machine and the lining by hand. I turned in 1.5cm on the lower edge of the sleeve and hand sewed down the lining.

Here is the sleeve after quilting (and clearly before pressing).
I machine stitched the sleeve in and bound the seam with bias.

Hook and eye on the front and chain in the lower edge and voila! A Chanel style jacket.

The finishing touch - a chain in the hem.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
It was a great starting point as I didn't have to alter the design for the look. I like the low front which works better with the tops in my wardrobe. Plus a high round neck makes my chin look flabby!

Fabric Used:
Handwoven silk tweed for the body. Silk satin for the lining

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I narrowed the upper back, made a sway back alteration, a small fba and added a little room at the hip.

In terms of design changes, I left off the ruffle on the sleeve as I figured it would get grubby and I also left off the pockets. It was all a bit too much 'look' for me!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Would I sew a Chanel style jacket again? Yes. Would I do it better? Yes. Would I use this pattern? Maybe (there's nothing wrong with it, there are just so many great jacket patterns). Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely.

This jacket was hard work! If I didn't have a deadline I'm not sure I would have persevered. But I am so glad I did. I think it looks great and I just hope I've done justice to the beautiful fabric and to the designer who inspired it!

The finished inside jacket front...

And back.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Pants-related outfits

Almost there, just the jacket to go...

My dear friend Sarah is always paying me out about how rubbish my photos are. I have an old camera, no garden, my house is still a 'fixer-upper' and I only have a dim courtyard to pose in. So today's photos are shot by Sarah in her garden (garden created by Cam). Thanks Sarah, and I hope you like them better than my normal pics.

Here are all the tops paired with the olive pants.

Sneak preview of the jacket here.

And another look at the jacket! Don't worry it's own review is coming...

So this is the last of the 20 base outfits all of which can also be worn with the jacket. I therefore now have a total of 40 lovely new outfits to wear to work - and I can retire some old favourites. Yay me!

Wardrobe Comp Review - Simplicity 2700

Finally the pants are done!
Don't worry, the wrinkles are just from the way I am standing!

The pattern is Simplicity 2700 the 'amazing fit' bootleg pants.

Pattern Description:
Amazing fit bootleg pants.

Pattern Sizing:
The pattern comes in the usual range of sizes but has different pattern pieces for slim, average and curvy figures. I started with size 14 and you know I picked curvy!

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, except mine don't look so much like nanna-pants.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Well, as it happened I mislaid the second pattern page when I was making these up so I was on my own after the pockets! I couldn't do it their way anyway as I added a lining to my pants. I did try out their fly instructions when I made my toile but it turned out terrible. On my proper pants I used the instructions in a Threads magazine which, imho are idiot-proof.

Here is the finished fly. I don't know why but I am loving squared-off fly stitching lately!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I liked that it promised to fit me. Aside from that they are pretty generic pants but I am glad they have pockets, we are having a terrible hay fever season this year!

Fabric Used:
Mystery suiting. It says 'cashmere and mink' on the selvedge but I wouldn't bet on it. More likely a wool blend of some kind. It is very lightweight and has a lovely drape.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
LOADS of alterations - but due to the body not the pattern. You can read about my struggles here. But it was worth it.

Oh yeah, and I cut the fly extension on with the front and lengthened the legs by 5cm.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I will almost certainly make these again, or at least use the pattern to adapt other patterns to fit. What I ended up with looked nothing like the original pattern so it's no wonder I haven't been able to get pants to fit before!

I am so happy to finally have a pants pattern that works. I know it is not perfect yet but I am not far off so I can't wait to fine tune it further. Long live the TNT pattern!

Sorry guys but you know there has to be a butt-shot. There is still some extra fabric below the seat but it disappears when I'm walking.

Here's my little 'design feature'. Using the threads article for my fly somehow caused me to end up with my left waistband piece too short. I just bound the edge with some contrast binding.

Quick update

I have officially completed the wardrobe challenge - phew! I'll be getting photos of the last two garments and some final outfits this afternoon so the reviews aren't far off (well they have to be done by the 30th so I'd better hurry).

Just a quick update on the navy tulip skirt. This morning I sat down and undid the waist and sewed the pleats for the top 10cm and dropped the front waist a little (thanks Moushka - great idea!).

I think you'll agree it's a much better skirt now.

Thanks to all who have commented here and over at Pattern Review - you really helped me to stay motivated throughout this major project!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Wardrobe Comp Review - Cool, Calm & Cowl-necked top

Blah, no makeup and weekend hair but here goes anyway!

Pattern Description:
Deliciously simple top, designed for drapey knits with a stretchy rib trim...try rayon, cotton, bamboo or silk knits. Relaxed fit top has a drapey, shallow cowl with a cut on facing, and a gently scooped back neckline. Top features cut-on cap sleeves and a deep ribbed band at the hem; top finishes at the lower hip. Wear this great basic piece with your favourite jeans or pants for a fabulously simple but chic everyday or weekend look.

This pattern came around as a free download on a Hot Patterns newsletter. You can find it at

Pattern Sizing:
I cut a 12 around the top tapering out to a 14 for the bottom edge and band

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
There is no photo - which I really would prefer when selecting a pattern. I think it looks more or less like it should, I thought the front neckline would be a little lower. I don't want to bring the girls out to play at work but I feel a bit like I'm being throttled in this one!

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Super-easy. The only vaguely tricky bit is folding back the facings at the shoulder seam so the seam is enclosed, but the directions for this are pretty good.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like how it's a very simple design and would suit my drapey knit well. I don't like that it's a little high in the front for me. When you are a little bit busty a slightly lower top stops you from looking like your boobs grow out of your chin (or chins in my case lately!). I like the look of the band but wasn't sure it would work on a hippy girl. It looks okay but doesn't fit to my proportionally small waist like it should. It is also unbelievably long! I have a short waist which doesn't help but I ended up chopping 4 inches off the length (vertical, not around my hips) of the band. I still think it is not the best style for my body but I like it for a change and it is so comfy!

Fabric Used:
Polyester stretch that I picked up on the spur of the moment at my local Spotlight. It was marked at $12.99 per metre - which I would consider average - but at the counter I found out it was marked down to $6. Gotta love a bargain!

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I narrowed the upper back by an inch each side of the CB and a lucky thing too or it would be falling off my shoulders. I made the band shorter (less deep).

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
You know I actually might. I think it would look great in some kind of glittery knit with dressy pants (although I would widen the front neck so it hangs just a smidge lower).

Not bad for a free pattern and some bargain fabric!

Here's the back.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Next lot of Outfits!

Hi all,
Here are the photos of the outfits I can make so far from the navy tulip skirt. If I look tired and pissed off in the photos it's because I am! I am in the middle of renovations at home, meaning my sewing room is currently a repository for all our crap. Between that and going away the weekend before last I haven't been able to sew a stitch in nearly three weeks. On the upside we have painted the formerly hideous bedroom and we are having a fabulous new wardrobe installed tomorrow - with custom storage - bliss!

I am super-stressed at work ATM and I usually rely on my sewing to help manage that - grrrr! The jacket is kicking my ass and I really just want to sit quietly for a few hours and work on it but I can't right now - plus I really need to get started on my last garment, the pants (I have one other completed garment I haven't posted yet).

I would really hate to stumble at this last hurdle and not complete the competition. I have hope that things will start to settle down in the next couple of days, so wish me luck!

Oh, and I just remembered I am going to see New Moon on Sunday so that will cheer me up if nothing else!

Rant over. Enjoy the photos...This skirt is wearable as is but doesn't give a great side view. I will definitely alter it (sew down the pleats and take it in a touch) but might not have time to do that before the end of the comp.

This one is a bad angle. I know my lower half is big but this is ridiculous!

I don't mind this look.

The camera flash makes this top look all kinds of wrong! But it looks nicer with navy than it would with black.
Can I express how happy I am with this blouse? I never would have made something like this if it weren't for the competition and I don't just love it, I am IN love with it.