Tuesday, April 28, 2009

All sewed out

Thanks all for your comments on the coat. Yes, you are probably right I should be showing off rather than pointing out all its faults. I read a great quote last week, "a New Zealander could not blow their own trumpet even if presented with a 24 piece brass band." It's not strictly true cause I can immediately think of a couple of kiwis who have no trouble hootin' their toot.

Still, in the interests of personal growth let me share 2 compliments I got today on my coat. I was up at Websters fabric store and the woman said to me " I wasn't going to ask you if you made your coat because it looked too professionally finished. I thought you must have paid a fortune at a fancy boutique." And some friends at lunch today said (unsolicited), "great coat." Well, I love retro styling as you know, so it's right for me. See Trinny and Susannah, you can have your coat and do it up too.

But it was a lot of work. Tissue preparation and fit, sew lining, fit lining, cut fashion fabric, sew fashion fabric, hand sew in interfacing and hems, attach lining, shoulder pads, press etc. But I'm glad I got it finished because school holidays are over, which means it's back to playcentre (a parent co-operative play group) which is a big time commitment.

You won't be surprised to find that I'm a little sewed out. So I'm taking a little break and I'm getting out a different set of needles, the knitting ones. Apart from anything else, I need to do something at the Playcentre meetings, which are fortnightly and seem excruciatingly long to me. (and everyone else too, except the two people who have to have an opinion on everything).

I've found this pattern book filled with nana knits. I've narrowed it down to 3:

short cardy

long cardy

cable cardy

What's your pick? It's in triple knit with size 7 needles (big wool, big needles) so it should see me sanely through a few meetings.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Burda 7786 Trench. Done.

Well it only took me 2 weeks! It shouldn't have though, I made lots of avoidable mistakes because I was too tired, and it was too late, or I didn't really feel like it.. mistakes I usually avoid by being quite smug about 'knowing when to stop.' So isn't it nice to know that even someone like me, who preaches, "sew in the moment" can get caught in a race to the finish?

I cut the lining too small and had to add bias tape to meet the shortfall.

Well, and talk about "third nipple." The darts have to be sewn right up to the apex, where they pop, because the dart is so short and steep. What's more, the metal fibres heated up so much while I was ironing the darts that they caused the fabric at the top to pucker.

So now we have triple nipple ripple. Diana, I hope we can still be friends.

But all is forgot when I put it on and just enjoy my little bit of Trench fun. Lots of Trench details are missing of course, because I just didn't have the fabric, but the broad shoulders and large pockets and close fit are all there. And it's just so 70's looking, isn't it, that metallic fabric, the small lapels, the big buttons.

Do you think I could be an extra for "Life on Mars?"

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy belated Earth day

Ok, so now I'm a couple of days late with Earth day, but then, every day's an earth day, right? (Thinking of a couple of blog buddies posts as I say this, you know who you are.)

To celebrate, I wore a complete op shop (charity shop) outfit, lovingly and sometimes cussingly home sewn by yours truly using donated fabrics. It cost me a total of $10 for jacket, tunic and trousers (US friends, halve that). Talk about putting the thrift back into thrift shops (sadly wanting as of late). The bag was also made by me, with second hand handles and fabric scaps.

The jacket was made from an army blanket and was so altered by me I hardly want to reference it. Before it was a box: I removed bits from everywhere, but the lapel is unchanged. (Burda 8172).

Back view, with stripe going down centre back:

Blanky jacket, collar detail:

So here is my outfit. Shocking photo due to day-light savings and photographer getting home in the dark. So it's the old photo in the mirror trick. (I wish I could make my blurry bad light photos look cool like Iris)

Then I went up to my favourite second hand store, Salvage, on Mt Eden road which sells vintage fabric and buttons and purchased myself some jewels.

What on earth am I going to make with them? They look too beautiful to use.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

the joy of top stitching

What says home sewn to you? To my sister Miriam, it means collars with too heavy interfacing and wonky top-stitching. I was reminded of that as I was working on my coat.

I love top stitching, I really do. I love it so much I have set up my ole faithful Janome as a permanent top stitcher with 6 mm presser guide foot, a top stitching needle and thread.

So imagine my thrill to come across a 2 page spread on top stitching in "High Fashion Sewing Secrets," by Claire Shaeffer, on kind loan from Jenni from across the road.

Now let me share her wisdom in brief:

Use small stitches, it looks less wonky.
Sew right side up.
Fill your bobbin before you start so you can sew the whole thing without breaking anywhere.
Always stitch slowly.

Thanks Claire! Now go on, tell me, what says "home sewn, but not in a good way," to you?

post editing note:

I forgot to add that Claire also endeared herself to me by saying that even the best couture houses have trouble keep their top stitching straight and she shows a darling picture of a Chanel collar with wonky top stitching.

In her page of advice, she didn't say, "don't drink and top stitch," but I think she should have.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Woe to go

I am really enjoying sewing this trench. I have doubts, I'll confess, as to whether I will want to wear it at the end, but as in so many things, better to journey hopeful than to arrive.

Do you remember Joseph Campbell's "journey of the hero?" It's the barebones of every heroic journey: the call to action ("hey, Nick's having a $4 a metre sale"), the arrival of a mentor (my man at Mt Albert the ex tailor who runs Smart Dress Fabrics, "Don't interline it, it will hang terribly at the back" ), a series of challenges to overcome. Ok that's where I'm at now. The series of challenges.

First challenge: not enough fabric. There was only 2 and a half metres left on the roll, which has limited me to this pattern (Burda 7786), and view b :

Next challenge. Those darts are not suitable for my figure. And yes, Antoinette, you are right: they will be hidden by the pockets! They are not easy to sew because they have to be sewn from pivot point to one edge, and then from pivot point to second edge. Plenty of pucker potential there, thank god for my wrinkly fabric. But the big problem is they do not allow for enough waist shaping and once the back is factored in they bag out. I have had to completely reshape the darts, seen pinned here. No way to escape conical boob point now. It's that or weird flat shape. I'll go with the Madonna look.

Next challenge. What the hey! Why did I not notice those awful Krystal Carrington shoulder pads! They are massive my friends, just massive. They have got to go. This is not Dynasty, and it is not the 80's.

Next challenge. The wrinkly fabric cannot be interfaced with iron in facing. I tried, but as I suspected it bubbles and won't seal flat. That can only mean one thing: hand sewing in hair canvas with herringbone stitch to avoid catching the interfacing in the seams. It's actually quite soothing.

It reminds me of sewing my quilt, only this time it won't take me 2 years. At current pace, I should come in a week before schedule - I'd say this trench will be done wo to go 3 weeks. Wo to go, isn't that a great expression? That's exactly what sewing is like, isn't it. From "woe" to "go!"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Return of the wrinkle reader

Brace yourselves for the journey of "the Trench". (If you are a more of a "destination sewer" tune back in a month or so)

I am a bit of a fit nazi, not a term bandied about this household, but one nonetheless. I wanted to preserve the style details of this particular trench, which could not be done if I was to wack a great big dart in the bust. However, not wacking a great big something in the bust means this will be a cardigan coat - never able to be done up. This is Susannah's (a la Trinny et co) trick. She buys cute little jackets that fit through her narrow shoulders and tiny waist and just never does them up. Call me old fashioned but I LIKE my coats to do up.

So here we go. I could avoid the bust dart by making several alterations through the front. Now look at the way Burda have seamed this dart. Its purpose is to shape the bust, the waist and hip. It's not ideal to be shaping the bust through a slit in the hip.

Ok, so I added 2 inches flaring from the shoulder seam to bust apex, then straight down. The excess was taken out through the existing dart, and the dart redrawn to fit. (The green lines are the new dart )

Now here is the lining. It's still pretty fitted through the bust, but the front piece is looking good so I will add more to the side piece instead.

The piece fits differently on of course, there's no way to accurately replicate the 'squeezed up tea bag look' to a post-nursing bust on a dress form. The wrinkle in the armhole is more pronounced in real life, which is a by-product of not doing a bust alteration through the armhole. Bugger. You just can't have it every way.

Bit of a compromise solution. Fit versus preserving design features? I have the next couple of weeks to second guess my choice.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Library bag

I hate having stash. I really do. I feel oppressed by it. I have found over the years that the most enjoyable way for me to sew is to find a project and a pattern that I feel excited about and buy that one pattern and that one piece of fabric and sew it from start to finish and then find the next project.

So when Jen from across the road rang up and said "hey, Nick's fabrics are having a $4 a metre sale" the sensible part of me said "no" but the greedy part of me said "yes". In matters of bargain fabrics and chocolate the greedy side of me always wins.

Once I have the fabric (and I never buy more than 2 pieces of fabric even on fantastic sale because they will pressure me the minute they get in my carrybag) then I have to find a project to use them on because I hate having them lie about my sewing room where they can visibly oppress me.

Now the 2 pieces of fabric I bought on sale are the fabric for my trench and this brown wool pinstripe. My MIL also oppressed me with Queen of Thailand silk so I thought I would liberate myself of some fabric immediately by sewing this bag for my library books.

I interlined it with an old wool blanket for strength and durability and finished it with a bookish kind of button. Now my books have a home in our bedroom and can look classy to and from the library.

Now here is the trench fabric. Can you see the lovely copper thread running through it. I tell ya' it's gonna be one classy trench, when I finish it, which will be in about a month. There's a lot of sewing in a coat.

Libary bag: wool outer, silk lining, felted wool interlining.

Pattern : " Sunday Best shopper" by Deena Beverley in her book "Brilliant Bags" which I got out from the library. Go figure.

post edit:

Hmm, yes, you're right. It does need something highly visible to remind me of the due date. Would like to encourage libraries to find other source of revenue other than my fines.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fabric fit for a queen

Thanks to Jenni from across the road (who incidentally has started her own very amusing, very cute sewing blog, check it out!) I finished the top using her walking foot. Now I have to say it's great having a keen home sewer over the road. We have phone conversations that go like this, "hey, did you know Burda is half price at the Bernina shop," "Hey, I'm just walking down to Mike's - he's having a 'everything $4 a metre sale', wanna come along ?" Etc.

When I'm over at her place we have long conversations about pattern adjustments and fabric and sewing projects. Her children, however, have short conversations with me that go like this, "Mary Anna, when are you going home?"

So I finished the top, and i still got a bit of a wave on the hem, not sure why, I loosened every thing that could be loosed and used a walking foot. Still, it could have been a lot worse. I have memories of the neckline still fresh.

My mother in law presented me with some fabric on our last visit. It was given to her by a homestay student, whose parents were physicians to the Queen of Thailand. It was given to them by the queen herself. Hey, I'm happy to take her 100% handwoven silk cast offs. I hate to tell my M-I-L this but the colour is all wrong for me and I see it best as lining. Classy lining though.

Now I have been looking at Trench patterns. Me I have never liked the design but it is on Tim Gunn's essential items list. Who am I to argue with Tim? And I have seen some classy ones about. I even took a fancy to some in Burda WOF but it's not so much tracing 14 pieces + lining that bothers me so much as following their instructions. I need pictures. Hate reading. Like looking.

So I purchased a separate pattern. Burda 7786:

OK here's some classy trenchy looksy for you from the Sartorialist: a fashion trench, it can be done.

Hey, Mr Sartorialist, forget Milan, New York and Paris, come on over to Auckland and take a pic of me in my trench when I'm done! pa ha ha I do crack myself up sometimes.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


OK, progress is being made on the top. I'm just too scared to use the twin needle again, so the hem still awaits attention.

I'm no knit guru, but last time I sewed 2 way stretch I had the nous to use a walking foot. This time, in my impatience to use my new machine I launched in, completely forgetting the vice like grip of the presser foot as it drags itself over knit. Be careful what you wish for eh? I did say, I wanted a feed dog with some bite.

I did remember though, about the importance of aforementioned walking foot, after it had completely puckered the bias on the cross over parts of the front neck line. Of course in my desire to do it properly I had used a twin needle, a microscopic stitch length and perfectly matching thread. Result: unpicking hell.

I had the good sense to quit before I could take to it with my newly sharpened scissors and headed over to Elle's blog to enjoy the vicarious thrill of someone taking the time to do things properly. Then I visited Diana's blog, to share in a little unpicking camaraderie.

Today it's back and still jibbery puckery but I can live with that. The hem will be tricky, as that littl' eel "never let go" foot drags itself crosswise over fabric with 100% stretch one can only imagine the tsunami to follow.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Or is it better to give?

I don't want to draw your attention to this, but the pokey out bit at the side is not like that in real life. This bag is just pulling a face for the camera. Wind changes you'll get stuck like that!

Here is my sister's birthday present. I know she'll like it cause it's pretty much a replica of the last one I made for a give away... (Estelle bag). ...which she liked, and when I phoned her she said to me, "Have you rung me to tell me I've won MY bag," or words to that effect.

This time I used the wool from my "skinny (pa ha ha ... they're size 20... I will not get over that in a hurry) pants" for the trim, and I lined it with a lovely apricot china silk from Christy. That's a nice touch, since my sister also reads her blog, but in a lurkish fashion. (This is not my blogging sister, this is one of the others).

I added the usual doily touch on the inner pocket (my nana signature) and interlined it this time with a heavy interfacing. Then I added buttons at the top to stabilize the pleats and join the three layers.

Scissors back in 3 days. Tra la la la LA. Meantime there is a lot of Burda World of Weird German Fashion patterns being traced.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Better to receive than to give

My scissors are off being sharpened and won't be back till next Thursday. I haven't been idle though, oh no not me.

I have been busy acquiring things. First off, a real grown-ups sewing machine. I've been meaning to upgrade my ole faithful Janome for some time now. It was a good little workhorse, but it couldn't manage heavy fabrics, and it didn't always feed fabric that well. So here's my little made in Switerland Bernina. Aah. The Activa 240, middle of the Bernina range of sewers - a little embroidery, a little quilting, but a heavy duty feed-dog. Bite where it counts. And on special this week till Saturday, $400 off ! Wa hoo! How my inner tight-wad rejoiced!

So me and my little friend will acquaint ourselves this week. In the mean time, I hacked out a muslin with my paper scissors, using whatever scraps of 2 way stretch I had in my scrap bin.

I am making another BWOF pattern, this time 01-2009-110. As I was tracing I swear I could hear Cindy in my head, "the secret to BWOF patterns is to only make patterns with 6 or fewer pieces." Cindy you are SO right.

I have been experimenting with bust alterations in stretch. There are 2 schools of thought on this one - some people say you don't need to do this with fabrics with negative ease. But I am not one of them. Here's why. If you take a strechy fabric and make a fist and pull that fabric tighter and tighter over your clenched fist what happens? The fabric molds itself to every dip and curve in you hand. Apply that to a breast and ladies and gentleman I rest my case. Not flattering. Not in any way. Not even to Dolly Parton, who makes her living from this kind of attention.

Because this style has two different front pieces I experimented with 2 different dart manipulations. First, I decided to put the extra ease into the rouching on the left front and for the other side, I decided to leave the dart unsewn, but to gather gently on the right side and ease into the side seam.

I decided to use Palmer/Pletsch's very full bust alteration using the shoulder as the point of introducing the extra fullness, and it does provide a much better fit. (otherwise you get this enormous Madonna conical boob type dart ... you see, I really DO love Palmer/Pletsch.)

Looking good I am not worried about how low the front it, I am making this top out of Merino wool and I will always have a cami top underneath. And people you would be so proud of me. I went to Global fabrics and bought exactly the fabric I wanted even though they had some Merino wool on special (half price) I paid FULL PRICE to get exactly what I wanted.

Now I have received some other lovely things this week. An award from the very lovely Iris,

and some gifts from the very lovely Christy (a page from the vintage sewing book she sent me - happy matchy matchy tartan couple!).

And lots of lovely comments on my pants from my blogging friends. Thank you all!