Friday, 30 January 2009

I've Been Nominated

This is my first time being nominated for a blogger award so I must say I'm pretty excited. I have received not one but two in the past two days and that has really put a smile on my face!
Thanks to Lisa Laree at Sew Random and to Maria Elena. These are both new blogs to me so an extra bonus is that I now have two fab new blogs to keep up with. Maria Elena doesn't speak english so I plugged this in to an internet translator and I hope it makes sense:
Maria Elena, gracias por su nombramiento amable y gracias por introducirme a su blog. Estoy muy agradecido.
Now I have to pass the award on to seven other blogs. This is hard, to limit myself to only seven blogs that I love reading. I'm sure we are all familiar with the inspiration that other peoples work brings, and I particularly enjoy those blogs that show detailed processes and fine finishes. Anyway, here are my seven (sorry, I think most of these have been nominated before):
AlisonC Sewing Gallery. Have you seen Alison's new Burda vest - it's really stunning.
Amanda's Adventures in Sewing. Amanda makes the cutest outfits - I love the colours she chooses.
Tany Sews and Knits. The first sewing blog I found and still one of the most inspirational!
Miss Celie's Pants. Reading Cidell's blog is like chatting to a good girlfriend.
Le Mani D'oro. Anne makes really stylish garments and posts in French and English
And my fellow Aussies at:
Lower Your Presser Foot. Ditto everyone else's comments Kristy, we understand you are way too busy with your precious new baby to be blogging much these days.
Sew Tessuti. Since visiting the Surrey Hills store on a recent business trip I am constantly angling to go back to Sydney (a four-hour flight away). I still smile every time I look at the oat I made from fabric I bought there - even though I don't have much use for it at the moment!
That's all for now. I have a couple of projects that I will do my best to update over the weekend.
Thanks again for making me feel included!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

It's Made From Grass

Yes I have made a cardigan out of grass, bamboo being a type of grass after all. The yarn is Cleckheaton 100% Bamboo and the pattern is from this Cleckheaton book. I made the second size (small - finished measurement 85cm).

This is a fairly easy knit but be warned it involves many, many rows of boring stocking stitch. The yarn is 4-ply weight and the needles used are 3.25mm. As the body and yoke are knit in one piece there are a lot of stitches too. This is definitely a project to work on while watching TV or DVDs. The Sopranos seasons 4, 5 and 6 got me a long way through this cardigan!

Normally I am not much of a blocker, I usually figure normal washing and gravity will take care of any 'quirks' of tension. Since I am trying to be better at doing things the right way I decided to block this by soaking it in lukewarm soapy water and patting it to shape on a towel and leaving it to dry.

Thank goodness I decided to do this as look what happened to the water the second I got the cardigan wet:

And this was the rinse water!

The cardigan has amazing drape and feels beautiful am I am really pleased with it. The only thing I would do differently would be to add some knitting-in elastic to the neckband - the fantastic drape comes with stretch and the neckline has grown a lot already. I'm not sure how I will deal with this.

The lace edging is only 7 rows at the beginning of the body and sleeves and it's really simple, as I said before getting bored is the only risk in this project. It is, however definitely worth persevering.

What I like most about this cardigan is that it means I can get away with wearing an ordinary tank top to work!

Monday, 19 January 2009

McCall's M5597 - The Almost Perfect Skirt

My black A-line skirt needed to be retired so I decided to replace it with a black pencil skirt. I really can't believe I've avoided pencil skirts for so long, they are actually quite flattering on a barge-arse! I used M5597, which modestly refers to itself as 'the perfect suit'. Well I don't know about the rest of the garments, but if the skirt is anything to go by, it's pretty darn good IMHO.
Hmm, I really wanted to get my new shoes into the shot (half price at Nine West), sadly my photographer didn't share my priorities. Conscious that I'm luck to have a photographer on hand at all, I didn't push it
This is the back view and it shows the only design flaw in my belief. I much prefer a vent at the back to a plain split (I mean I don't think the back of anyone's knees are attractive!). I didn't change it as I wanted to see if it would look okay, it does - just not perfect.

Here is an embarrassing insight into my life that illustrates why I like vents. While I understand (but can't comprehend) how FREEZING it is in the northern hemisphere, back here has been the hottest January on record. On Friday it was just shy of 42 degrees (that's around 108 to you fahrenheit people). I have taken to wearing long-line shorts under my skirts for comfort when it's really hot (like shapewear but not so tight). Well, let's just say I regretted that choice when I wore this skirt to work the other day. The shorts don't show below the skirt normally, but when walking they do peek through the split. Not to mention that was the day I got my stiletto stuck in the pavement and pulled off my shoe TWICE! And I've never even done that once before. I am so uncool! Moving right along...
Here's the side view.

This pattern is well drafted, goes together easily and fits really well. It doesn't have a lining which is just weird, so I added one, and I used an invisible zip. I felt there was a touch too much ease in the skirt piece so it's a little ripple-y at the yoke seam, but I think that's because I used a stretch woven, if I'd used wool it probably would have steamed out fine. You might was to check this for yourself if you choose to make one.

PS. Sew4fun, I WISH I was Hugh Jackman's dresser! No, I dressed a couple of the guys in the chorus (both really nice guys), but Hugh was lovely, always friendly and said hello, and never complained when starstruck crew members wanted their photo taken with him. *sigh*

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Happy Blogoversary to Me

So it’s my blogoversary...

When I first stumbled on fashion and sewing (and fashion sewing) blogs and sites like Pattern Review about 18 months ago (I can’t even remember how it happened now) it was as if a whole world opened up. Even though I have friends and family who are interested in fashion and sewing, I just love reading about people’s projects from all over the world. I really thought long and hard before starting my own blog as a) I wasn’t sure what I had to contribute to the sewing community and b) I wasn’t sure I had the dedication it would take. So here I am, a whole year later, having managed 57 posts which is a reasonable rate IMHO, I have had times where life got in the way or my mojo went on holiday and other times where I have been super-productive. But overall I have achieved my aims in starting my blog, namely to improve my standards and stop being lazy, and to stay motivated to sew more of my own clothes.

To celebrate I am not going to do an annual retrospective, but I am going to follow Lindsay T’s lead and give you my sewing back story…

One of my earliest and most favourite Christmas memories is the sounds I always heard on Christmas Eve after my sister and I had gone to bed. The wonderful, deep slicing sound of shears against the kitchen table (I still love that sound) and the whirring and rattling of the sewing machine. I didn’t know what exactly those sounds were but I knew they meant that on Christmas morning I would wake up and my sister and I would have a new dress each, made with love by our Mum. They were always identical except the colour and every year I loved and looked forward to my Christmas dress. I never felt that home made was ‘less than’ – I’ve always believed (even at that young age) that love and craftsmanship counted for more than the label on the inside.

When I was about 7 or 8 I started dance classes, which meant dancing costumes and my Mum patiently made those for me too.

The girl in the shamrock dress is my sister but I love the costume-I really wished it was mine. Our concert that year had an international theme - I scored the hula! I am probably about 7 or 8 here.

This lovely Spanish number is made from poplin. And I LOVED this jumpsuit (you can't tell from the picture but it's shorts). Mum took the tinsel off after the concert and I wore it everywhere until I grew out of it!

Thank goodness I was not talented at dance and didn’t carry on past my early teens, it must have been such a pressure on Mum as she always worked full time and, after I was 13, she was a single mother. I used to watch her sewing on sequins and wish that I could help but she would never let me. All the nagging must have worked though because she started to teach me to sew – by hand. She helped me cut out an evening dress for my Sindy doll – cobalt blue voile with white ribbon for the straps and belt. My reward for making this dress entirely by hand was my first sewing machine.

Ah, my first machine! It was a Holly Hobby design and had a crank that fitted into the fly wheel so I could wind by hand at first, then it had a little foot peddle that I moved onto when I was confident enough. It didn’t do zig zag or anything but I loved it, not to mention I had the best dressed dolls in the neighbourhood!

At about 15 I started making my own clothes and let me tell you there were some shockers! I didn’t really use patterns then but just felt my way through it. I believe this has helped me later in life with pattern drafting and fitting as I developed a sense of how a flat piece of fabric can be made to cover a curved surface.

Here's my year 10 formal dress (I'm 15) check out the fingerless gloves - I crocheted them! And yes, I did like 'A Flock of Seagulls'!

And next is my year 12 formal dress, it was 1986 and I was channeling Kylie Minogue with the hairdo (I should be so lucky!). I don't know what was going on with the dress - all I can remember is that I thought it ROCKED.
After year 11 I applied and was accepted to fashion design at the local technical college but I was convinced to complete high school as I had good grades (yes, I know, it was good advice!). I ended up studying psychology at university and after a round about journey ended up in market research.

For some reason I didn't do much sewing at this stage in my life. I did a lot of cross stitch, embroidery and bobbin lacemaking. On a trip to the UK in 2001 I even did a short course at the Royal School of Needlework.

After 61/2 years as a consultant I was burned out and completely miserable so I decided to pack it in and finally pursue my dreams, studying costume at WAAPA. I had a brilliant 3 years of study (at least I was sewing again even if it was for other people more than myself) and then 2 years scraping a living working as a theatre dresser, in a fancy dress shop, at a bridal design studio and in a fabric shop (where I also started teaching).

Working as a dresser on 'Boy From Oz'. Best. Job. Ever.
Sadly part time and casual work isn't enough for a single girl on the wrong side of 35 with a mortgage so when an opportunity came up to go back to market research I took it.

So that's where I am now. Constantly battling to maintain my work-life balance as I know all too well the consequences of letting that slide, but nevertheless happy that for the first time in five years I don't have to choose between paying bills and eating (or, more realistically, getting in more debt!). I'm also happy to have an outlet for my creative side, I have discovered that career wear really is my niche and it's great to be able to afford nice fabrics to work with. I'm also happy that I did decide to start this blog a year ago. I am chuffed to bits that anyone stops by and over the moon when I get comments from people. Sometimes when I feel work start to get on top of me I read my favourite blogs and I am reminded that so many of you have the same issues (namely you'd rather sew than just about anything else!), I just love that sense of connection.

So welcome to any new readers and thanks to any regulars for sticking with me. I hope you enjoy my little walk down memory lane. Feel free to chuckle at my shameful photos (I know I did!) but please don't judge - I am a victim of the times!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

BWOF 07-2008-108 Tunic Part 2

Today I'll show you how I face a sleeveless top without hand sewing. It's not that I am against hand sewing - in fact I really enjoy it but I find this method give a really high quality result without bulky seam allowances getting in the way. I learned it when I was working in bridal, where we used it on halter tops and sleeveless bodices. This tunic isn't strictly sleeveless so it's a bit easier than normal (you would usually have to sew the armhole in two stages) but the principle is the same so you might like to try it.

OK. So I have finished the lower armhole and joined the yokes to the rest of the tunic. I have also sewn the shoulder seams in the yoke facings.

The first thing to do is to sew the neck seam, understitch it on the facing side and then clip and press (this is the order that works best for me - and it give the smoothest results).

This next part involves a little maths. If you use seam allowances other than 1.5cm (5/8") then you will need to work this out for yourself. My little brain took ages to figure it out for 1.5cm!

Trim 0.5cm off the armhole edge of your facings, this will ensure that the facing rolls nicely to the inside of the top.

Next, open the top out so it looks like the picture below. The shoulder seams are running horizontally. Forgive my photo, I don't have photo editing software so I had to do this in crappy old paint.

Get hold of the armhole ends of the shoulder seams, facing in your left hand and yoke in your right. Bring your left hand around behind the top and match the seam ends in your right hand then pin them together. Don't think about this too much - it will hurt your brain. The top will resemble a fortune cookie at this point.
Work your way out from the seam until the entire facing edge is pinned to the yoke edge. You will need to wiggle and adjust as you go but it can be done. If the entire armhole is faced, you'll need to do this in two goes.
Sew in a 1cm seam (not 1.5cm because of what you trimmed off earlier). Your seam will not match up to the finished edge of the lower armhole but when you turn everything through to the right side you will find the yoke and facing roll nicely to the inside and look really smooth and neat. You can understitch this seam too. It is tricky but worth the patience. This is the finished armhole from the inside.
The next stage is to sew down the facings to the yoke seams on the inside. You can turn under the edge and stitch in the ditch, which is what I planned to do, but in the end I decided to hand sew this part. It really didn't take long and gave a really nice finish.

Here is the finished top. I made a narrow rolled hem on the bottom. Despite my best efforts it's a bit wonky but I intend to only wear it tucked in.
Here it is tucked in, as I'll wear it to work, bear in mind that I am a little larger than my dummy.
I'm pretty pleased with the way this top turned out. The silk satin is beautiful and not too shiny for daytime. There are a couple of creases that I can't shift so I am going to have to take it to the drycleaner to press it for me but after that it should be fairly easy-care since I pre-washed the fabric.

Monday, 5 January 2009

BWOF 07-2008-108 Tunic Part 1

Hi everyone,

I hope you all had a fantastic new year and are feeling optimistic about 2009. I am not going to do a review of 2008 or resolutions at this point as the little counter on the left tells me my blogoversary is coming up soon and I think I'll save it for then.

I'll start 2009 with a project I actually finished last year but it's taken me a while to get all the photos together. It's a simple project but I have done things a bit differently so I wanted to show you how I achieved my result.

The project is BWOF 07-2008-108 the tunic with an inverted pleat in the front. It's photographed in linen, but I chose a silk satin for my version. This is the second top to go with the flounce skirt I made recently.

The pattern is very simple - front and back, front and back yokes and side seam pockets (which I left off). After reading the reviews at Pattern Review I decided I would need an FBA. This is not an easy pattern to make this alteration on, so I made up a 'cheats' way to get extra room in the front.

When I traced the back pattern pieces, I used a straight 38 for the entire yoke and traced the back piece starting at 38 to the bottom of the armholes and then graded out to a 42 at the hips (the magazine photo looks very snug on the model's non-existent hips - it turns out it's not that bad!). For the front I traced a 38 on the shoulders of the yoke, graded out to a 42 at the bottom of the yoke and then traced a straight 42 for the front piece. This is not a fitted garment, I just needed room and this method worked pretty well.

No interfacing is called for - and wouldn't be needed in a cotton or linen - but I backed the yokes with silk organza.

I didn't follow the instructions at all. I completely made up my own way based on how it might be manufactured for RTW - I wanted to put this together without hand sewing (I enjoy hand sewing but sometimes like to challenge myself to pretend I'm a 'real' designer). That didn't quite happen but for a good reason, more on that later.

First I stay-stitched EVERYTHING - silk satin is really unstable! I stay-stitched the neck, armhole and bottom edges of the yoke facings, and the top edges of the front and back pieces. I also basted the silk organza to the facing pieces. Below you can see the back yoke with silk organza and the back yoke facing.
I constructed the side seams first. I used french seams but when I sewed the first line of stitches (the wrong sides together part) I stopped about 1cm below the armhole marking. For the second line of stitching I went all the way up to the marking and back stitched for security. I snipped into the seam where the first row ended and then turned a double hem around the armhole slit using up the 1.5cm seam allowance. It ends up looking a bit like a sleeve placket.
Next I sewed together the yoke shoulder seams, made the pleat in the front and joined the yoke to the rest of the top. This is a shaped seam and can be tricky but you have to keep in mind you are matching the stitching lines not the cut edges. Clip the curves to the stay-stitching and use quite a few pins to keep everything in place and remember that the yoke seam allowances will protrude at either end. For silk and fine fabrics I like to use glass-headed pins - they are pricey but worth it IMHO. As I sew I use a tip from a Sandra Betzina video I watched ages ago. Instead of maintaining the tension on the fabric in front and behind the machine foot as you normally would on a long straight seam, put both hands in front of the foot and massage with your fingers left and right. This manipulates the bias slightly and you'll find you can accommodate a fair amount of ease or curve this way. Try it on a scrap, this tip changed my sewing life!
Next time I'll go through a tutorial on how to face a sleeveless garment completely by machine, an industry technique I learned while working in the bridal studio, and show you the finished garment.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Final project for 2008

I guess it's fitting that my final 2008 project is a dress to wear out for New Year's Eve. I usually have a pretty casual NYE, so I don't need a fancy outfit but the past couple of years have just been so incredibly hot that my usual uniform of jeans, fab shoes and a cute top is just not possible. This year I decided to make a cool and (hopefully) stylish, comfy dress for lounging around in the backyard at my friends house party. I'm pretty sure I didn't look so chubby in real life - I must be standing funny in the photo!The pattern is Simplicity 4072, a threads collection dress. I have had this pattern for a couple of years and even cut and half sewed it once, but I made really bad fabric choices and it ended up in the bin. I read every one of the 29 reviews on Pattern Review before proceeding, as I was dubious about using a crisp cotton for this garment. The reviews seemed generally positive so I went ahead.

The fabric is a cotton with a border print from my stash, I didn't need to buy anything, so this dress was essentially free! Not having much time available, and the weather being so hot I couldn't be doing with fitting and complicated methods so all in all this dress fit the bill.

The last time I started to make this dress it was pre-happy pounds so I had cut the pattern in a 10. I've noticed that the threads dresses tend to have a lot of ease so I decided to go with it, just adding a little length to the front bodice as a cheats FBA, I didn't need to add anything to the width.

It went together easily, there was nothing particularly complicated and I did everything the quick and dirty method just so I could finish and get back to my air-conditioned living room. I did add pockets as suggested by a reviewer (I poached a pocket bag pattern piece from a random pattern and added them to the side front seams), and I cut the tie double width and sewed it into a tube rather than hemming the edges as suggested. In terms of the instructions, the only note I would make is that before you snip to the underarm dot you should sew a line of reinforcing stitches first so it all doesn't give way later - I am amazed the instructions don't tell you to do this, that is just slack.

The dress was, as intended, very comfy and a couple of people complimented it. We had a good night out and it only took us half an hour to get a cab home - which is a minor (no MAJOR) miracle in Perth with it's useless taxi system.

Happy New Year everyone.