Thursday, 30 December 2010

Christmas wrap up

Hi everyone, hope you all had a wonderful holiday.  Christmas day here was blisteringly hot (just shy of 40C) but fortunately we went from air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned house.  Yes, a lot of running around but you may be surprised to hear that is less than normal so for the first time in about 20-odd years, I got a sleep in on Christmas Day - bliss.

First things first. A massive shout out to Cidell, who posted this recipe on her blog.  The pumpkin and mushroom Wellingtons were a big hit at my family's Christmas vegetarian lunch. Don't they look cute?
Now.  On to the outfit.  This year I fancied wearing linen pants.  I don't know why.  I have never worn linen before, let alone pants but I got the idea in my head that swishy wide legged pants would be cooler than a dress.  Yes, I know they would look better with heels but Christmas is pretty casual in my family and I have a lot of driving to do.  Even I can't wear heels all the time!

I used a stretch linen, probably a bit thicker than necessary - it's almost cargo weight if that makes sense.  I won't do a proper review of this since the pattern is a bit of a fudge.  I started with a Patrones pattern but widened the legs substantially, converted the waist facing to a shaped waistband and added pockets.  I think they came out okay but by the time these photos were taken (after lunch) I could already pinch a good inch on each side.  I may run them in a bit and then do a proper post on them, or I may just keep them as slouch-around-the-house pants.  I need some distance before I decide.

Here's the back, you can see how big they are on me.  Instead of looking relaxed and slouchy they just make me look wider than I already am.

The top is the cool, calm and cowl top which was a free download from Hot Patterns, but now you have to buy it.  I made it for the PR wardrobe competition last year so I have already reviewed it.  I really wish I had gone back and checked my own review so I could have remembered to lower the front neckline a bit.  Ah well, it will do for work.  I did at least remember that the band around the bottom did not work for my body type so I left that off and lengthened the top a little to compensate. The fabric is a remnant I picked up for $8 a couple of years ago.  I am not sure but it could be silk jersey - whatever it is, it feels beautiful!

This is my sister's dog Fergus, isn't he cute?

I am now working on a dress for New Year's Eve and am pretty pleased so far...

As a final note, these photos were taken on my lovely new camera that my fella got me for Christmas - yay!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas everyone.  Hope you all have a safe and happy holiday.  I also hope it is a bit cooler where you are than here!

Back soon with a post about this year's Christmas outfit.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Pattern Review - Simplicity 2360 - the spotty ruffle dress

Phew, only 2 more days of work this year!  I cannot wait to have a break!  Apologies, I am a bit knackered so if you want full details you will need to check out the full review (see sidebar).

So this dress was inspired by the fabric, a polyester crepe de chine at a minuscule $5.00 per metre.  I already had loads of thread and elastic so this worked out to be about a $10 dress. 

Here is the front.

And the back.

I had to make a quick fix at the waist as the bodice was too short.  I attached a band in the middle and top-stitched the seam allowances down to make two elastic casings instead of one as provided in the pattern - sorry the picture isn't very clear.

Overall a pretty quick and easy make and the pattern has potential to be used for a heap of different garments.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Inspired by Van Gogh - the sunflower dress

I found this fabric at my local Spotlight for about $6.00 per metre and something abut it spoke to me.  The colours remind me of the Sunflowers painting by Van Gogh.  It is 100% cotton, hence the wrinkles after a full day at work but it is very light and cool in the hot weather.

The pattern is Simplicity 2424 - one of the Threads collection patterns.  I also like the cardigan in the pattern but I will have to give the jacket a miss though - the wide lapels will probably swamp my narrow shoulders and I suspect the poofy sleeves will end right at my widest bit!

I would have liked to have lined the dress but the only lining I had in my stash is the kind that wrinkles like mad after washing so I thought it would be a nightmare to take care of with two layers to iron!  My solution is to wear a full slip underneath which I actually quite like to do anyway.

Here is the back.
The princess seams make it easy to alter for many body types.  I made an fba, a sway back alteration  and narrowed the upper back.  The front neckline is a little high and makes me feel a bit claustrophobic but I can live with it.  I probably should have altered for my forward thrusting neck. 

I forgot to lengthen the pattern so I hemmed it using 2.5cm hem tape, but as you can see this pattern is a little longer than standard - I normally lengthen skirt patterns by a good 5cm.  I quite like the stability it gives the flimsy fabric.

Overall I like but don't love it.  It's not as comfortable as I would have liked, with it's slightly too high neck and the belt carriers are on an awkward part of my waist so the belt digs in a bit (this will not be a problem if your waist goes out gradually to your hips, rather than quite abruptly as mine does).  But I am desperate for clothes, it was super-inexpensive and it will do for one summer.  I would make the pattern again but take more time to fit it properly.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

It's a real thing

Here is how the conversation went:
Me: Do you like my cape?
Fella: It's a bit short.
Me: It's actually a capelet.
Fella: You're making that up, there's no such thing!

So here is my new capelet.

The pattern is the Loose Textured Cape by Jo Sharp, a Western Australian yarn and pattern designer, which I bought as a kit in a recent 40% off sale.  Essentially it is worked as a top-down raglan jumper but it finishes at the point you would normally separate the sleeve stitches and join for the body.  It is knit on 9mm needles and is worked in stripes of the main colour (1 strand) and the main colour plus one or two other yarns to give the thick and thin look.  Overall it was an easy make and only took a few evenings to finish.

Here's a closer look.  Instead of knitting on the placket and using a kilt pin to fasten I crocheted the placket and added a buttonhole so I could close it with an over sized wooden button.  I also worked the lower border in garter stitch instead of rib.

Somewhat disappointingly I ran short on a couple of the yarns, but since the all colours are so similar my substitutions don't show.

Here's one from the archives...Jo Sharp was originally known for her intricate intarsia designs.  Probably about 8 years ago now, when I had just had my mini-breakdown and threw in my job with no plans for the future, I was commissioned to knit probably one of THE most complicated designs you will ever see.  From memory there is at least 20 colours in it.  I never met the person it was for, as it was commissioned through a wool-shop owner and the client lived in the country.  I really hope she loved it as it nearly killed me to knit it.  I would work on it about 12 hours a day and got it finished in about 2 months - and then couldn't knit for about a month after due to straining my wrists!  But it was never boring...I present - the Cactus Flower Coat (and a much younger me!).
For the record, contract knitting is quite good fun but not a great way to cover the mortgage!

Oh and by the way thank you all so much for your kind messages after my last post.  I guess it's easy to lose perspective when you are so focussed on a problem.  I really wasn't fishing for compliments but you have helped me take a step back and see the bigger (no pun intended) picture.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Coming clean...

You haven't seen much of me on this blog recently but it's time to come clean...

You see, I can't deny it any longer.  I have put on weight - ugh!  I really haven't wanted to sew for myself lately as I need to use a size bigger pattern but I still need clothes and there are very few of my old clothes I can still squeeze into.  I am not happy about it, but it is what it is; and for various reasons going on a diet is not something that is high on my priority list right now.  I am going to try to be better about making healthy choices but in the meantime I should still be able to look good.

If there is an upside to this, it now seem my lower body is exactly a Patrones size 48 (my upper body not so much of course!).  So the thought of making something with no alterations is pretty tempting.  For my first try at a Patrones pattern I chose a skirt - number 25 in issue 294.  It was so successful I made it twice.

For the first version I used a cotton poplin with some stretch.  The stretch is not necessary but the fabric has been in my stash for a while now and had aged sufficiently to be used. This is made exactly to the magazine pattern.

It's fine for weekend wear but a touch short for me to wear to work.  Skirts with pleats usually look terrible on me but I actually think the pleats on this skirt fall at the right place on me.

I used an old-style zip as it was all I had to hand.  It is so long since I have done one of these I really had to stretch my mind to a) how to do it in the first place and b) how to finish the facing on the inside.  I kind of bodged it in the end, it's only a casual skirt after all.  Still my lapped zip came out pretty good if I do say so.

I even made the belt loops even though I rarely wear belts.

The second version is also in poplin, this time not stretch.  I love this art nouveau-ish butterfly pattern. All I did this time was lengthen it by 5cm.  This time I also used an invisible zip.  My workplace is pretty casual so this works well with a nice knit top for work. 

Clearly we need to work on the back courtyard a bit!

It irritates me a bit that the design wasn't centred on the fabric and I didn't have enough to fussy cut it with a butterfly centre front and back.  Fortunately I don't think it's noticeable.  But having said that I shouldn't have to buy an extra length of fabric to accomodate lazy fabric designers!  And before you ask, yes it is apparel fabric not quilting fabric - not that it should make a difference.

I don't know if my mind works in crazy (ie dirty) ways but after looking at the print for a while some aspects of it started to look a bit 'anatomical' and I wasn't sure if it would be appropriate or not.  But no one has said anything so either it was all in my imagination, or everyone is laughing behind my back! (okay, I tried to upload a photo but blogger won't let me, maybe the computer thinks it's too rude so I'll just have to keep you in suspense!)

My only complaint is that, because the yoke rides quite low it has a tendency to tip forward and catch under my belly - not a good look.  I might cut the yoke so it finishes higher on the waist in future but with the pleats still starting at the same point on my hip, if that makes sense.

I really need to pick up my pace if I am going to finish 30 projects this year, some quick and easy pieces might be in order I think!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Baby starghan mark II

This is my second baby starghan, you can see my first version here).  This time made as a gift for my chiropractor, whose partner is expecting in January.  This version is made in cotton so I chose to do blocks of colour rather than stripes since the ends don't darn in as nicely as wool.  I just kept going until the yarn ran out - 1 ball white, 2 balls pale lime, 2 balls white, 2 balls teal (plus an extra half ball of teal to finish the last round and work the edging).  I changed yarns when and wherever I needed to rather than just changing at the end of a round, that way I could get the maximum size out of my yarn.  As with the previous version I finished with a round of crab stitch to neaten the edge.  Not much else to say really except, yay another FO!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Grey coat - finished

Hi everyone,
Still massively busy and stressed out here but I have at least managed to fit in a bit of sewing.  I finished the grey coat - unfortunately far to late to be able to wear it this year.  Oh well, it'll just have to hang in the wardrobe until next May, unless someone whisks me off to a northern hemisphere holiday soon (hint hint).

Anyway, here it is...
I can't remember where I left you on this project but here is the bodice
The skirt with floating patch pockets...

 Bound seams on the inside of the skirt...
Super cute lining...
And a front and back view...Sorry, the sunlight is so harsh these pictures are a bit washed out.
 Sadly it is a little snug.  Those few kilos I have always battled have become a few more lately grrr.  I just don't have the energy to deal with it right now.

I'll do a proper review in the next couple of days.

In other news, I start another class tomorrow night.  It is with the same teacher as the corset class (yes, I will do a wrap up of that soon) but this time I will be learning about lingerie.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Featherweight Cardigan - Finally!

Wow, more than three weeks since I've posted anything.  I have not been terribly creative lately, I am making slow progress on the winter coat (which I have no need of until next May now!) and the corset (even though the class is finished - I promise I will update you on what we learned).  I am just very distracted lately and all my creative energies are occupied elsewhere.  I'll do my best to get back on the horse soon - I find it easier to manage the little stresses of everyday life better when I have an outlet!

In the meantime I finally blocked the Featherweight cardigan and here it is:
I have been a bit 'meh' about this cardigan since I finished it.  On the positive side the shape is nice and it's light and soft.  On the other hand I couldn't get the collar quite right (I cast off loose so it wouldn't seize up but now it's just kind of floppy) and it snags if I even think about a rough surface (I don't know why I imagined it wouldn't be fragile).  I can never work the pulls back into the fabric and it's starting to look a bit moth-eaten already.

Here's the back, you can see what I mean about the collar.
I have been looking forward to making the wispy cardi in the same yarn but a different colourway but now I am not so sure.  I have another project on the go so I don't have to decide right away but I guess my options are
  1. buy another skein of yarn and work two strands together,
  2. make the wispy cardi but substitute a different stitch that won't pull so easily (maybe all over moss stitch?), or
  3. make something else entirely - like a huge lace shawl (and risk looking like a total nanna - not sure I am young and cool enough to pull of the 'casually wrapped handknit lace shawl' look)
So that's where I am at.  I'll try to work on the coat this weekend - I am nearly finished!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Floating patch pocket tutorial (picture heavy)

I am so far behind on posting it's ridiculous! My apologies but I have so much going on in my offline life ATM that blogging has fallen down my list a bit. Nothing bad I assure you, just distracting!

So I am foolishly making a winter coat in Spring, as I did a couple of years ago - I know, it's mad but I enjoy making coats. I guess I should move somewhere that I would get more than three months wear out of them a year! For this coat I am using Butterick 5145 - view B, with the pockets.

Today I am going to demonstrate my method of attaching patch pockets so they look like they float - no visible top stitching. I learned this technique from an ancient Australian Stitches magazine (probably at least 8 years ago now) and tried to demonstrate it here, but grey fabric with black lining and a crappy camera don't make it easy! I hope you can follow the process a bit better this time around. One thing I will say about this technique, don't try to understand it ahead of time, make a practice version and it will become clear - seriously it still does my head in to think it through!

These pockets are a little different because of the flap but a little thought allowed me to still attach them invisibly.

The pattern has you cut two pieces from the main fabric, stitch them RS together, turn them out and topstitch on to the coat. I started by cutting two pocket pieces from the main fabric and four from the lining FOR EACH POCKET.

On one of the main fabric pieces measure 2.5cm down from the foldline and cut across. This becomes the part of the flap that shows on the outside, you can discard the rest of the pocket piece. When the pocket is finished, 1.5cm will be on the inside of the pocket (the join is not right on the foldline) and 1cm will be the seam allowance to join it to the lining.

On both lining pieces, measure 0.5cm down from the foldline and cut across. You can discard the upper portions of these pieces and keep the 'bags'.

Join one lining piece to the flap with a 1cm seam allowance and press.

Place this piece RS together with the full pocket piece and stitch around the flap, only above the lining/flap join. Snip into the seam allowance, grade and clip your seams and turn the flap out - press well.

Next press down the 1cm seam allowance on the other lining piece and place it RS together with the lining piece already in place. Baste all three layers together with a long stitch.

Turn in your seam allowances, using the long stitch to draw in the corners and press really well (you will find it easier if there is a distinct edge crease made at this stage). I hand basted everything before pressing so I didn't get pin marks. Trim back your seam allowances to 1cm.

Put the pocket in place on your garment (remember the lining/flap join is not at the foldline).

Put an open-toed foot on your sewing machine and baste the pocket in place using a long, narrow zig zag (I used length 4.0 and width 2.0). With the 'zig' on the pocket edge and the 'zag' off it. Remove your hand basting from the pocket if you haven't done so already!

Now the tricky bit. Open up the pocket so all the layers are in your left hand and the garment is in your right. You can look in and see the folded in seam allowances. You want to get inside with your open-toed foot and sew those seam allowances down to the garment, as close as you can get to the pressed edge. It's a bit tricky, and definitely easier on a larger pocket. For obvious reasons you need a pocket with rounded corners for this technique. Just work your way around, a little at a time until you get to the other edge.

Now since the lining/flap join is 1.5cm down from the fold you will need to secure that last little bit, between the join and the foldline to the body of the coat. I topstitched little rectangles that would take the strain of putting my hands in the pockets. This stitching is the only bit that shows from the outside and it is completely concealed when you fold the flaps down.

All that remains is to secure the loose lining edge to the garment, concealing the seam allowances - this is the really clever bit and looks very nice. I did this by hand invisibly but you could also edgestitch it on the machine. Then give everything a final good press.

Finally sew on the button and you are done. No one else might realise how clever you are but you can feel smug every time you put your hand in that pocket!

I hope you find this useful, I think it give a more formal look to a casual style of pocket.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Corset classes 1 and 2

Today I'll show you what I have been working on in my corset making class.

I have a little corset making experience, having made a Victorian style corset as a class project at WAAPA. I have also made a fair few structured bodices using various methods of boning, but I am by no means an expert so I was thrilled when the opportunity arose to develop my skills further. I signed up for a 6-week course, one evening a week at a local technical college.

At first I wasn't sure how I would like it, many of the other students seemed quite inexperienced but I really had nothing to worry about as the teacher is very experienced and generous with her knowledge (not all teachers are like that unfortunately). There will be a class project for those who want to work along step-by-step or we can do our own thing. I have chosen to use a different design but using the same techniques as the class project, my design is slightly more complicated as I wanted to work with gussets. The other techniques I haven't tried before but will be incorporating into my corset are cording, flossing and hand-worked eyelets.

By way of background here is the corset I made while at WAAPA.
(obviously dummies can't 'suck in' - mind you it doesn't fit me either these days!)
It is a pretty simple shape and I added decoration to the centre front panel by winding silk ribbon on to the bobbin and stitching the diamond grid (from the wrong side) with a zig zag stitch.  I then made a hand-worked bullion rose in the centre of each diamond.

Essentially I sewed together the outer shell and the lining individually, placed them wrong sides together and stitched the boning channels on each panel. The only actual seam that is boned is the side seam and that is formed with a flat felled seam. There is a busk in the front, metal eyelets in the back and the top and bottom edges are simply bound with bias strips. It requires a degree of accuracy but isn't complicated.

For this course I will be using a B4254 View D which I have had lying around for years (I was intending to make the Tudor/Elizabethan style corset, but like so many projects it fell by the wayside). I'll also be using the fabric and boning I got for that project. On the upside this will be a very economical project for me!

So far I have made and fitted a toille. Essentially I am making a size 12 with a little room in the hips, a 1cm increase to each side of the gusset/cup (by way of an fba) and nipped in a little at the top edge. Pretty easy really.  Fortunately I kept the practice eyelet strips I made for my other corset and was able to use them for fitting.  This ensures a nice even gap down the centre back.
Next I moved on to sampling some of the techniques.
Here is my first attempt at cording - sorry it's a bit blurry but I think you get the idea. I stitched 3mm channels and threaded through two lengths of machine knitting yarn, probably about 5ply I would say. It needs to be something quite hard - like acrylic but this is a little thin. For my second sample I stuck with 3mm channels and I used some 8ply acrylic leftover from my swiffer socks, again using two lengths. This gives a nice firm result. Boy is it boring sewing all those channels though - no more samples for me I think!
The method of boning I will be using for this project is quite different to any I have used before. The outer and lining fabric are placed together, like underlining, then the seams are stitched. Bias strips are then sewn along the stitching line, the seam allowances are trimmed and the raw edge of the bias is turned in and stitched down to the main body to form the boning channel. The channels can be placed on the inside or the outside of the corset depending on whether or not you want it to be a design feature, but both sides are fully finished and neat looking. Mine will be on the outside. I have made up one half of the corset to test out these techniques (I need to perfect the measurements to cut the bias the right width for my boning).  Note the centre front and centre back panels are not joined on as I have to insert the busk and make the eyelets before those panels are joined on.
This week I think we will be inserting the busks (which I have done before but it will be interesting to see if there is a different way to do it) and making hand-worked eyelets (which is great for me as I hate putting in those silly metal eyelets - all that work to be ruined by one wonky grommet!). After that (possibly this weekend) I will start on the real thing.

This weekend I must get on to blocking my featherweight cardigan.  It's been waiting for over a week now!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Jess's Wedding Dress Part One

I mentioned previously that I am making a wedding dress for my friend Jess at the moment. We had a preliminary try-on this past weekend and I am relieved to say it went very well!

Jess has given her blessing for me to blog about the project. Her family and friends are mostly in the UK and she would love them to be a part of the experience so this is a good way to share the journey with them as well as with my regular readers. So welcome along Jess's friends and family, I hope you like what you see and drop me a line anytime if you have anything you want to share!

First a bit of background. I met Jess a few years ago when she started dating Wade, who my fella and I studied with at WAAPA. Wade is an absolutely top bloke and I am pleased to report that Jess is a perfect match for him. When she rang me to tell me that Wade had proposed I could not have been happier! Then when she asked me to make the dress I didn't hesitate to say yes.

I haven't made any wedding dresses since I stopped working at a bridal design studio about three years ago, mainly because of the stress involved. I have done a couple of private contracts before and my brides have always been lovely, but I did have one very difficult sister-of-the-bride which soured the whole experience for me. That coupled with some of the bride- and maid-zillas I came across at the design studio really put me off, although making wedding dresses generally is still something I very much enjoy. I was happier drafting patterns and making samples for the shop rather than for actual brides. Call me crazy but I am sort-of thinking about going back to it again - the corporate world really doesn't agree with me and I'd love to work from home again!

I know for sure I won't have any problems with Jess. We are able to communicate well and understand each other and Jess is very realistic too. Also it doesn't hurt that she is absolutely gorgeous!

The wedding will be a barefoot affair, on a beach in the beautiful south-west with the reception at Wade's parents' bush block near Dunsborough. It's not until April next year, so I probably won't start the actual dress until November, but we just wanted to get our ideas together to see if we had nailed it yet or need to keep looking.

We have been snoop-shopping a couple of times (with one of Jess's bridesmaids) and Jess has tried on dresses that are both very high-end and off-the-rack. We were conscious of not wasting too much of people's time, and it was never the intention to knock-off someone else's hard work but it was important that Jess be able to see how she looked in a variety of shapes and styles before committing. That's the problem with custom-made, it's hard to know what you like and don't like until you actually put it on. There were some that looked good and some that looked great - lucky Jess has the sort of figure that doesn't look bad in anything - and I was able to get a feel for what she was looking for. The key points were:

• A sheer layer over satin
• A dramatic back
• Not too low cut in the front
• Some kind of draping to give movement

I decided to go with a fitted and lightly boned bodice with chiffon draped free-form over the top. I had a photographic reference of a dress with wide chiffon straps and a tied bow at the back so I incorporated those too.

This is what I mocked up with some poplin and polyester chiffon. You will need to use your powers of visualisation as it's very rough!

For the under bodice I used a pattern I drafted ages ago but never used, and I used my trusty Vogue 8494 as a guide for the skirt.

The good news is that Jess loves it! It was a little big so I have fitted the bodice to her which, having many vertical seams, is easy to do. I will also lower the back substantially, it can go a lot lower and still be appropriate and the romantic style of the straps will make sure it doesn't get trashy. Generally though it has turned out a winner, which is great because I am very happy with it too!

I will put up a post on the bodice soon, to show how the under layer works and in the next few weeks we are hoping to go fabric shopping. We are thinking a silk satin with a bit of body, but not stiff, for the under layer, with silk chiffon over the top. We will most likely go for ivory although Jess is open to other colours, but given it's an outdoor event we will probably stay away from the whiter end of things.

I also have two weeks of corset class to catch you up on and I have finally finished the Featherweight Cardigan (although I haven't blocked it yet!).