Monday, January 26, 2015

red gingham

... new dress!
I feel like I've been wearing the same little summer dresses over and over and over.  Not that there's anything wrong with that! because I like them all   :)  but a few of my standbys are getting on their last legs and the wardrobe needed new blood.  And there's still a lot of summer to go.
I've been eyeing off dress E from the Stylish Dress book by Yoshiko Tsukiori ever since I got the book, in fact it was my Sew Bossy dress of choice for Reana Louise!  I loved hers and alway wanted to make one for myself too... one day.  The book is chokka with patterns for cute and practical little summer dresses that are absolutely perfect for our hot Australian summers, and this pattern is yet another goodie although I ended up making quite a few little changes.  Some due to my fabric;  a red/cream cotton gingham with a very slightly crinkly, seersucker-y texture, from Spotlight.
The front of dress F has five box pleats in the bodice and I was determined for the gingham pattern to match perfectly on the front.
Please excuse and/or feel free to skip the following; where I boast obnoxiously about my perfect pattern matching.  Yes, there are five box pleats up there *insert smug self back-patting*
There's only one way to pattern match to that degree, and that's to pin the flippin' heck out of it.  I pinned at each and every check intersection, basted each pleat and inspected for flaws obsessively before the final sew.  I'm pretty pleased, even to my eyes I can't see the joins at all.  And I'm pretty fussy  :P
Matching the pleats into the gingham weave like that necessitated cutting the front piece to a different width from the pattern piece.
It's not hard to work out how to do this, the only criteria is that the front fits onto the front facing piece once pleated.  A little quality time with the tape measure and some mental calculations to exercise the ol' brain cells a bit.  Each box pleat is 6 checks wide, with 4 checks in between each one and it turned out that the overall width of my front piece is slightly narrower than the pattern piece.
Other changes:  gathering looked terrible in this bouncily textured fabric, so I cut the back skirt straight, eliminating gathering into the bodice.  The sides were slimmed down considerably, tapering out to 10cm off each side at the hem, I added in-seam side pockets instead of patch pockets.  I did put the little cap sleeves in to start with but they just felt a bit too "busy" in gingham, so I unpicked them off and finished the armholes with a bias-cut strip inside instead.  The pattern is quite short so I lengthened my dress by 10cm, with a little tuck at the original hemline, just for fun  :)
So yeah, I have nothing much more to say!
I've made a cool and breezy, simple and uncomplicated little summer dress.  I love it already  :)
this one made me laugh... hmm; terrific maternity dress! 

Oh, and Gabrielle and I are twinsies today!  I had nearly finished this dress and was amazed when Gabrielle posted a picture of her red gingham dress on instagram!  great minds thinking alike, of course  :)  check out Gabrielle's gorgeous gingham dress here

Dress; dress E from the Stylish Dress book by Yoshiki Tsukiori, red cotton gingham
Thongs; Havaianas

Thursday, January 22, 2015


I love hoodies.  And I love dark browns, crinkly linen and loose relaxed-fit comfy loungewear.  Despite all those loves, it's taken me a ridiculously long time to finish this hoodie.  I started it before I left for Melbourne last year! woops!
I used Burda 09/2014-115, a tunic/hoodie pattern; and this lovely deep, deep, burnt chocolate linen, that I bought from Tessuti's in Melbourne on our previous, 2013 trip there... extra woops!  Sometimes I hoard lovely fabrics for forever and feel guilty about it, but really it's only because I can't think of the Perfect Project which it would like to become.  Some fabrics tell you straight away, whilst others sit there and taunt you with their loveliness while never giving any hint of what they want to be.
Anyway, finally I made something.
To be honest, this is version two.  
The pattern is actually for a tunic a good 6" longer than this, and that is how I made it.  I had visions of those lovely chic European lagenlook-y ladies wearing long and loose flowing clothes in earthy neutral shades.  I started out with high hopes, made the hoodie/tunic.  Felt really good about it, all went together smoothly, happy with my decision, almost finished it; perfectly hand narrow-hemmed shirt-hem and all.  It was easily long enough to be a dress.
Tried it on, and was immediately struck by the fact that I had made myself a Friar Tuck robe.  Yes, in its long version I looked exactly like Friar Tuck. Do I want to look like Friar Tuck?  Emphatically, no.  Disastrous.  Dejectedly shoved it aside for, um; a few months.  Hmmm, how time flies!  
Anyway, I really did want it to work, and so just recently I drastically shortened that hem and rolled the sleeves up.  Massive improvement.  I left off the waist tie channel and tie.  I reckon that as a boxy, shorter tunic, with rolled up sleeves, it still had that relaxed, fairly oversized, comfy vibe that I was after... stylishly chic, I hope!
The dress has pockets and so I kept those, cutting and re-hemming it to just below that level.  The button placket is invisibly sewn closed, because all buttons just seemed either the wrong size or colour, or just plain wrong against the fabric.
For some reason that now escapes me, I felt allergic to the idea of self-fabric bands to hold up the rolled sleeves.  At the time I felt they would look unutterably boring and/or too match-y.  So I made some sleeve holder-up thingies from skinny metallic belts.  It felt like a good idea at the time, and luckily I'm still quite pleased with them, feel like they bring something interesting to the table, on what is otherwise a quite plain and featureless hoodie.  I've tried wearing the hoodie with a few other of my clothes and it's interesting that that little bit of silver-y, pewter-y metallic on the sleeves really helps the hoodie to "go" with a lot of my other clothes far better than it would without.
The neckline/hood seam is hidden underneath a band, cut from the leftovers from this dress.  It felt quite fortuitous that the brown stripes were wide enough that I could do this, with barely a hint of cream pin-stripe to be seen!
Later edit: Inside the sleeve tabs, and thank you Jenna-Lynn for asking  :)
I made the belt sleeve tabs by buckling the belts and cutting down to size keeping the buckle area intact.  Using a nail, I hand-drilled four little holes for stitching, two at each end. The outside holes are hidden underneath the belt overhang.  I put a little wad of folded fabric inside the sleeve between the belts to stabilise and strengthen the stitching area, and stitched through my drilled holes firmly and securely using thick upholstery cotton.

Hoodie; Burdastyle 09/2014, 115 shortened, of burnt chocolate-brown crinkly linen
Shorts; Burda 7723, grey/cream pinstripe linen, details here and my review of this pattern here
Disclaimer; this pattern was given to me by Burdastyle; however I chose it myself from the large range of patterns on offer because I liked it.  All opinions are most definitely my own.  There are no affiliate links on my blog and never will be...  I'm in it because I love sewing  :) 

Friday, January 16, 2015

"poison dart frog" lingerie set

Sounds like a weird inspiration  for a lingerie set?  Well this is my thing for prttynpnk's Jungle January  :)
I really wanted to do something a bit different, something other than big-catty.  I googled jungle animals and was immediately drawn to the splendiferous group of amphibians that are the poison dart frogs; there is a huge variety of incredibly hued, jungle- and rainforest-dwelling frogs, in the most amazing array of beautiful, vibrant colours!  The one that really leapt, or hopped? out to me was this little guy.  Meet Oophaga silvatica, a native of Colombia.  This colour morph is called "Koi".  
I loved its pale blue/red colouring and immediately envisioned some sort of lace overlay to mimic the markings.
I did a certain amount of agonising over "what" to make, I was a little tempted to make a dressy cocktail number, but practicality won.  Keeping my new resolution to sew thoughtfully firmly in mind!
The pale aqua blue bamboo knit and red stretch lace are from Fabulous Fabrics, the baby blue shoulder strap elastic from Homecraft Textiles.  The bra pattern is my current favourite; MakeBra 2610, an underwired bra with a pieced foam cup lining.  I'm very comfortable with this style so I am super happy to have another one in my collection.  
I made two pairs of matching knickers using two different patterns; the boy leg hipsters above are a pattern sent to me by katherine h and the bikini brief below are from my tried and true McCalls 2772.  This is the second time I've made the MakeBra pattern, the second time I've used katherine h's pattern and about the millionth time I've used the McCalls... well, it feels like it sometimes anyway!  The McCalls bikini brief pattern is hands-down my comfiest and easiest to wear, but I do still like making a different one occasionally, just for some variety.
I sewed the lace on the undies by machine but thought it ended up looking a little too... machine-y? so for the bra I sewed the lace on to the cups by hand, using invisible fell-stitching with the stitches hidden within the foam lining.  This does look much nicer, no surprises there.
I couldn't find any blue or red lingerie elastic to match in nicely, so instead used regular 6mm braided elastic and enclosed it inside a once turned-under hem, topstitched on the outside in zig-zag stitch.  It doesn't look quite as well finished on the inside as lingerie elastic would, but doesn't look terrible.  And it works just fine  :)
Those very long-tailed, decorative bows on all 3 pieces: I've seen several rtw lingerie sets decorated with much longer tailed bows than usual and liked how it looks, so I decided to cut my tails quite long too.  Hmmm, not quite sure now!  They do look quite romantic and pretty, but I'm starting to wonder how practical they'll be in situ.  So these are currently on trial and may or may not get cut shorter.
Thoughts; ok I love this colour combination in theory, in practice it does feel a tiny bit on the flashy side for lingerie.  For me, I mean.  My usual style tends to run to the colourless and slightly boring, and this set is anything but! so I'm stepping outside of my comfort zone here.  But I kind of still love it anyway.  It's not the obvious thing anyone would think when imagining "frog-inspired" but I'm totally going to think of frogs every time I look at it.  

Bra; MakeBra 2610, in aqua bamboo knit and red stretch lace, my review of this pattern here
Undies;  (L) McCalls 2772, and (R) a pattern from katherine h

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 plans

I've been thinking about my 2015 wardrobe requirements and sewing plans for this year.  To be honest I was kinda shocked at the sheer number of things I sewed last year, and not in a good way!  It wasn't lost on me that my favourite projects for last year were also the ones upon which I lavished the most time and thought.  So I'm thinking that to slow down, take my time, be more mindful; would be both a rewarding and sensible thing to do.   I mean, I have clothes.  Quite enough really.  But I still want to sew.  So it makes sense to concentrate on making fewer, but more individually labour intensive things, with an eye to provenance, longevity and quality of finish.
You know that word of the year thing?  I haven't had one before but it's a fun concept, yes?  Anyway I'm giving it a burl.  This year I wish to be more thoughtful in my sewing.
My on-going pledge to abstain from RTW will continue, so there may be a certain amount of maintaining-my-basic-wardrobe kind of sewing happening too, but I still would like to stretch myself with a few new patterns and skills.  It would be cool to make a few more Pattern Magic things.  And shoes!  And some Alabama Chanin sewing, which is definitely an exercise in slow thoughtful sewing!

Also, and in the same vein, last year Nicki of this is moonlight contacted me about participating in her one Year one Outfit project.  You can read all about it on her blog; essentially the project involves making for yourself an outfit using all materials sourced and produced locally.  Obviously this does not mean simply visiting the local Spotlight store! but at a much more grass roots level.  So for me, finding Western Australian farmers and sustainable producers of their own yarns and/or fabrics, and making a high quality outfit using only these.  This also pertains to all dyes and finishing touches!  The only thing I think maybe we can give ourselves a pass on is thread, since I think the only threads we can get here are Gutermann's.  I'm pretty excited about this project and my brain is already buzzing with opportunities.  This one should be quite a challenge!
I'll just give one clue as to just one of my ideas, contained in an instagram I posted late last year from my friend J's farm in Cunderdin... ;)

I was quite inspired by Lauriana and Sue's vintage pattern journeys of last year.  The vintage sewing pattern pledge is conceived and hosted by Marie of A Stitching Odyssey, and I only wish I'd thought of joining in last year!  Whatevs, this year I'm IN.

During 2015, I hope to sew up at least five of my vintage sewing patterns.  

So, I shall see how I go!  Some of these things might overlap.
Oh, and also this year, I will join in with Anne of Pretty GrievancesJungle January for the first time; it's in its third year so what took me so long?! and hopefully Zoe's Me-Made May, as per usual.
wrt the former; my Jungle January fabric is flapping on the line, drying, as we speak! um, should that be type? read?  anyway all I shall reveal for now is that it is totally different from the expected, mwahaha. ;)
To be appearing here, very soon...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Setting an invisible zip in a French seam

... as promised, and thank you to everyone who showed an interest  :)
And, just saying; I am a believer that there is no necessarily right or wrong way to do anything in sewing, but whatever works and is neat and tidy is pretty much going to be a "right" way, no matter how you got there!  This is merely just showing a way that I chose to do it :)
Step 1; sew the zip into the open seam.  Also, when inserting a zip into a very lightweight sheer fabric like this I always stabilise the seam with strips of the selvedge as described here, the ends of these can be seen at right protruding out either side from underneath the seam.  I used the selvedge of the thicker lining fabric here.
On the inside, pinch the seam allowances together, aligning the raw edges, right sides together. Snip 6mm (2/8") into the seam allowances, underneath the zip tape, about 1cm away from the stitching.
Turn raw edges to the outside, wrong sides together, align and pin.  Stitch a narrow 6mm (2/8") seam starting from the "snip" and continuing down to the bottom edge of the seam.  Note, this seam is on the outside of the garment.
Press the stitching.  Open the seam and press open.  
Close it again and press closed.
Trim the seam allowance to half its width.
Open the newly skinny seam and press open.
Turn to the inside, folding as accurately as possible along the line of stitching with wrong sides together.  Press the fold firmly in place.
Underneath the zip, pin the stabilising selvedge strips in place over the seam. 
Baste a 6mm (2/8") seam, commencing a few inches below the lower end of the zip and going up to as close to the zip stitching as possible.   Turn it out and check for straightness and neatness. 
Note; this is the most difficult part of the whole thing! below at right is pictured my first, not particularly straight, line of basting stitches :P
If it isn't neat, unpick and re-baste.  When you're satisfied with it, stitch over the basting stitches.
Stitch the remainder of the French seam, from the previous stitching down to the bottom edge of the seam in a 6mm (2/8") seam allowance.
Press the French seam to one side, and catch the lower ends of the zip tape by hand to secure it.
And that's it!  I also lined this skirt, and in a sheer fabric like this it's best to French seam the lining too.  I trimmed the zip opening seam allowances of the lining skirt before turing under and hand-stitching them invisibly to the zip tape.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014; a retrospective

So, on the last day of the year I like to look back upon some of my favourite sewing creations/outfits/pictures for the year, one for each month...

Some stats:
Number of garments made; 73 items, counting each set of 1 bra + 2 undies as one item.  This includes 15 items that I made for family.
Knitted garments; 5
Garments re-fashioned from old clothes; 8
The same number of items that entered my wardrobe also exited my wardrobe, so I'm holding steady on numbers there.  I ruthlessly got rid of a few things that didn't get worn at all this year, and I'm getting better at letting go of really old things that are past their best, yay! There's still room for improvement there, though  :)

Also, this year I took a picture of my ootd every day and totted up the totals.  Why? because stats are very dear to my analytical little heart  :)  This year 95.6% of the clothing I wore was made by me. This includes all my underwear, socks and hosiery.  Woot!
The remainder comprises scarves given to me by family, and my old MetalicusTshirts and Country Road cardigans that I still love and cannot bear to part with.  
I have eschewed buying RTW for 5 years now.  Yay!

Favourites: top place just has to go to my Alabama Chanin ensemble.  I'm HUGELY proud of this outfit, and feel very sort of high-end and couture-y when I'm wearing it.  Funny I know, since the fabrics are quite humble and ordinary in themselves and it is not extraordinarily eye-catching upon a casual glance.  I don't think I'll ever tire of it  :)  I also really adore both my Swedish dress and my blue ray dress.
Probably the biggest thing for me this year has been that I made for myself shoes! two pairs of rudimentary shoes, or maybe three counting my slippers?  OK then, just two  ;)  They're certainly not the most wonderful shoes in the world but I feel pretty proud of them and want to make a few more pairs sometime.
Just for the record though, I'm definitely not giving up buying RTW shoes.  Gotta leave myself something!

Fails...  haha, well there were a few less than fantabulous moments in there, ahem. Some honourable mentions:
My pale coffee jeans, which sadly turned out to be beige slacks after all.  The fabric felt weirdly stiff and crackly and plasticky against my skin, and there was a slight camel toe issue that I worked on a couple of times but which remained stubbornly unfixable.  Binned.
My leatherette baseball skirt; it's the second leatherette skirt I've made that never felt right.  I think maybe leatherette skirts are not very me.  Fortunately, Cassie took a shine to it and it now lives in her wardrobe.  She's worn it several times too, so yay!  Handballed.
My raspberry Alabama Chanin tank dress.  I already covered the problems in the blog post.  It's in the process of being hopefully improved upon and fabulous-ifed as we speak.  Working on it.

I enjoyed keeping my daily outfit blog and I think I may still continue doing it again next year.  The photos are not super high quality, definitely of the no frills variety; but I'm OK with that since it's just like a quick visual thing for me to see how my outfit actually looks from an outside eye.  That's a very helpful thing sometimes.  Some days I find an ensemble especially pleasing to me, which is good.  Other times I've realised that the outfit I've been wearing all day is actually pretty meh, if not downright awful. *sigh*

So that's it for another year!  I'd like to send out a huge mushy thank you to everyone who reads my blog and who takes the time to comment, thank you!  It's not so long ago when sewing my own clothes felt like a very lonely hobby.  So I'm hugely grateful to have "met' so many lovely and inspiring like-minded creatives... and yay! for the internets for enabling us to connect and support and cheer each other on.
See you all in 2015!