Saturday, May 30, 2009

Corduroy stretch jeans

Did the title of this post send shivers down your spine? I think stretch jeans get a bad name from all those who think the extra ease is an invitation to go down a size. Having said that, I didn't go out of my way to buy stretch, wasn't till I started sewing it I realised it must have some elastine in it.

Corduroy is THE winter trouser fabric. It's so nice and snugly to put on. I made the pants using M 5142 which I bought recently in their half price sale. Right off I was hooked on the styling with the generous use of embellishment and bedazzling.

You will remember my initial pocket design sparked by this instruction:

But in the end, because I don't have an embroidery machine and I have to top-stitch everything on my machine I simplified the design right down. Choosing the colour for the thread was tricky - nothing really stood out - I wanted something subtle, but not invisible. In the end I went with "bone" , partly because I believe there's no harm in flogging a good joke.

You'd really have to seriously be checking out my toosh though to make sense of it. I mean, does it say "knitting needles and wool to you?" I think the knitting needles would work better longer, personally, and corduroy does not carry embroidery well - too textured to bring out the stitching. Still, it will amuse me no end, and I'm the one wearing them.

The fit on these pants is not for those wishing to avoid the state of their derriere. They hug the bootie in a "cross your heart bra" lift and separate kind of way, evidenced in my photos. I did make mine a little on the tight side, but only because I've been caught out by corduroy before, it stretches a lot through the bias of the crotch after sewing. However, there's no doubt: it's too tight, despite me using the flattest back and lowest derriere option available. I have more work to do on the pattern.

The lesson of these pants for me though, has been "sew in haste, unpick at leisure." I grab moments to sew when I can, but I try to cram so much into that time that I inevitably make mistakes, like not stream shrinking out the ease of the waist band before I edgestitched and topstitched, creating serious puckering.

I don't know about you, but I cannot wear something I've made that I've made badly. So I spent twice the amount of time unpicking as it took me to sew it in the first place.


But these will be a useful serviceable pair of pants, and as wearable a muslin as any. Now on Monday I am going to start making these again (with modifications for a better fit) , the capri pant length, in my ugly fabric.


post editing note:

I just had to go back and do something about that back, which would be fine, if say, I was twenty years younger and my name was Brittney. Better, but the real problem is the crotch length, and I am going to address that in my next pair of pants.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Skirt ideas anyone?

The ugly fabric contest rules have been announced and it has gone pretty much as I predicted. Garment must be more than 50% ugly fabric, and fabric must be on show.

Geek sewing showed me a lovely design to turn my signet scarf into swan top. I drafted it up using my own slopers with a few changes in keeping with my dimensions. Then I fitted a muslin to my dress form and showed TMB. "What do you think?" His reply: "it's a little busy through the decollete." Translation: your boobs look big in it.

It's the print friends. So then I decided it looked quite nice as a scarf anyway, when it's all rolled up and you can't actually see it.

Now I've started thinking about the fabric given to me by my mother in law.

It's from one of the hill tribes in Thailand. Funnily enough, half a lifetime ago I did a jungle trek through those villages. Here's what I remember the guide telling us.

"Last week, police come and take west people smoke opium. Go to jail 10 years. Thai jail bad place. I no sell opium. You want buy coca cola?"
"We sleep here tonight. Toilet anywhere OK. Tomorrow watch step."

I have looked and looked and looked at this fabric and couldn't think of anything, except the obvious kaftan, which would probably look a little bus(t)y. So I started to do a little research, got out of few books form the library on Asian traditional costumes and started to put together an inspiration board for skirts.

After a little google imaging I found this, "Thai barbie"

Although this is how the fabric would actually be worn, with the crosswise piece at the bottom and a pair of leggings underneath:

Still nothing I feel wildly excited enough to ever wear. One idea is to chevron the stripes into a 4 part skirt. (rough sketch below:)

But more interesting has been learning about the culture of the hill tribes people. This piece of fabric was woven on the most rudimentary of equipment. It would have taken a long time, and been meticulous work.

I had better make a good job of this skirt or there's going to be all kinds of bad karma coming my way.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What kind of sewing blogger are you?

Well you know the expression, "horses for courses" well there is also, I've discovered, "sewing blogs for seamstresses."

Sewing blogs fall into continuums, I've discovered, and the best match is when a blog writer and a blog reader with a similar predisposition meet. So here's my take on it:

What kind of sewing blogger are you?

1 Destination (product) versus Journey (process).

Destination sewing blogs only show the finished product. They post spasmodically, and only when they've got something to show for themselves. Very low maintenance, they blog every couple of weeks but when they do there's a nice surprise in wait.
Sewing is a product.

Journey sewing bloggers post every couple of days. The first post might be, "hey look at this great fabric." Followed by "what can I do with it." Followed by, "I've chosen this one, and look at this facing." "Now look at my hemming technique. 3 weeks and 6 posts later we have a new garment to see. Sewing is a process.

2 Technical bloggers (factual) versus ancedotal bloggers (emotional).

Technical sewing bloggers are only really interested in the sewing itself. They tend to show details of pockets, finishing, facing and linings. They often run tutorials. They talk at length about techinique. Sewing is a science.

Anecdotal bloggers are more interested in the story behind the garment. Sewing is drama in 3 acts. There will be personal element to it, and the human aspect is highlighted. Anecodotal bloggers might show you the shoes they bought to go with it, and their favourite lipstick as well as a few holiday photos of their children in the sand. The garment is a part of a whole life experience.

3 Public versus private .


They will discuss details of their lawsuits, divorce settlements, sexual activity and health in great detail. There's no such thing as too much information and they will even ask for advice on the above.


They will not show their face, use their name, or reveal any personal information at all. They are cautious and keep everything strictly to sewing business.

Where do you fall on these continuums? You might be extremely one or the other, or have a tendency towards one or the other. You might have started off one way and ended up another. You may fall into a "little of this, but mostly that."

But where the trouble starts is when you get a mismatch. Say you get a journey sewer with a destination reader. The reader might get frustrated, "who cares about your holiday in France, show us your sewing." Or you get a technical reader who stumbles onto an anecdotal writer, "who cares where you wore it, show us the zip insertion."

Because I've been too sick to sew the last week, when I've had some free energy I've been reading blogs and I came across 2 big spats where there was just a mismatch of what the blogger had to offer and what the reader wanted to get out of reading the blog.

Me? As a reader, I'm partial to anecdotal journey where you get a sense of the sewer's personality, and that's what I largely write. However I happily read across a variety of styles because everybody's got something to offer.

Righty, ho. That's enough from me. Back to bed cough cough.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Benjy's coat

Well it's done. For a quick and easy project it took me quite a long time, mainly because I've been too sick to do the job properly. Like a drugee with a habit I have to sew no matter what, in this case, with a weepy eye, sore throat, ear ache, sore gums and headache. Thank you all for your get well messages. It's been a long dreary week in quarantine.

The salient message of this sewing project (and isn't there always a lesson to be learned?) is that you should always read the reviews on Pattern Review. I read one this morning, after I tried the jacket on Benjy before taking up the sleeves and found it was miles too big. The comment on the previous review? The sizing on these jackets run to HUGE.

Actually, I was in the Bernina shop the other day and Annette, the manager, commented on how refreshing it was to see Benjy with his trousers rolled up. "Young people these days, they buy clothes for their kids in just the right size! What a waste, they'll grow out of them in a month"

I think that is what Burda are getting at with this design (Burda 9828). Both sleeves and bottoms are designed to be rolled up so that as the children grow you can lower them and get more use out of them. Can't argue with that... in no hurry to be sewing more children's clothing.

On the advice of my sister I removed the front pockets. "He'll only fill them up with water from the hose." I did, however, add a name badge, just for the fun of it.

The burda pic:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

His 'n her jackets

Well here's the jacket, (McCall's 5327) need to adjust a few things on the fit through the bust (somewhat optimistic in the high placement of apex, gravity has been far crueler). One thing that really threw me was the lack of roll line on the pattern. I had no idea how wide the lapels were supposed to be. Sigh I miss Burda. For all their cryptic instructions their drafting rocks!

It is a funky design, even without the coffee cup pockets. Check out the scalloping on the back.

I know you are really checking out how nicely my shoulders have been set in. See no puckers! And did you see I got a visit from Sewing royalty? Goes to show you never know who might drop in to your blog.

We have been very sick in this household. There is no polite way to say this so I'll just tell it like it is. Snot. EVERYWHERE. Noses, throats, blocking ears and then glory of glories, oozing out the eye! I really hit the quinella with conjunctivitis. Last night as I was lying groaning in my bed thinking things couldn't get more unseemly I felt a twinge on my lip, that special itch that signifies the arrival of a coldsore.

I'm paper bagging it this week blog friends.

Anyway, although I am a selfish sewer, only for ME ME ME, the need to keep Benjy warm has necessitated in some toddler outfits. Here I am nearly finished his little woollen felt jacket with lining courtesy of my blogging buddy Nana's lady.

Sometimes the best way to look after yourself is to look after someone else. Burda 9828:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Set in sleeve tutorial

How do you set in a sleeve?

This is the way I attach sleeves for a set-in sleeve style. Now I am not a tutorial kind of gal, but this is one case where the pattern instructions are not the best way of doing it.

So, for the benefit of my fellow domestic seamstresses who have ever sworn and cursed over a puckered sleeve head, here it is:

Mark all notches on sleeve and shoulder as per pattern pieces. I nick in with the scissors just a few millimetres deep. The most important notch is the top of the sleeve head, shown below. That must match the shoulder seam otherwise you run the risk of puckers gallore.

Now match all other notches, the 'waves' inbetween is the fullness to be eased in. You are going to be sewing on the inside of the sleeve. Put the pins in the direction of sewing with the heads facing as you sew so that you can easily pull them out.

Pin the whole sleeve head, pins cheek to jowl, as it were. The pins are helping you manage the ease. If you can't make the seam sit flat with the pins, you're going to have a hard time sewing it later. Notice that we are matching seam allowances, not edges. The edges will, in fact, should, be wavy.

The whole thing is now pinned ready to go. We are going to slide this into the machine with the inside up, and the outside next to the feeddog. That is because we need to use our fingers to manage the ease of the sleeve cap.

Now start sewing, starting at the bottom of the sleeve. If you machine has needle down position, switch it on. Placing your hands either side of the fabric, start feeding it though, using your fingers to guide and smooth where necessary. As we sew, we are looking for that "straight line" we created with the pins, where the seam allowances of the sleeve and shoulder meet.

We are looking to "follow that straight ol' line." See how the edges wave, but there is a patch of clear waters to sew along?

As you head towards the back of the shoulder, the amount to ease in will increase. It may be necessary sometimes to stop, lift the presser foot with the needle in the down position and push some of the ease back past the needle with your fingers.

Eh voila! We have it. Our sleeve is now set in. Trim threads and ease out any wrinkles with a steam iron. Push seam allowances towards the sleeve to help support the sleeve head.

It's not hard. A little fiddly, but not hard. It produces far superior results than using the more traditional gathering threads, so it's worth mastering!


Carol Mill, Palmer/Pletsch instructor, told me not to use gathering threads but to pinch and squeeze the fabric through using my fingers.

The instruction to sew on the inside of the sleeve from the bottom up and to push the seam allowance into the sleeve head comes from "Palmer/Pletsch Jackets for Real People."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Plenty to smirk about

I have nearly finished the jacket so I thought I'd show you that I wasn't kidding about the pockets.

Next on the agenda is boring sewing for Benjy . Harumph. But I have to get him some warm waterproofs because he insists on being out there, in the rain, getting as cold and wet as possible.

To keep me going, I have some more fun sewing immediately afterwards. I'm going to try my hand at making my own jeans. Here is the pocket design. Now imagine 2 pockets on the back, what does it spell?

Never miss an opportunity to smirk, that's my motto.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Time for a rethink

I am going to have to rethink my ugly fabric entries. I will not get away with lining my denim jacket (ah, ever heard of a lined denim jacket?) but mostly the way the competition rules look to be swinging it's going to have to something more substantial, and sadly, on show.

The denim jacket is coming together nicely. I kind of got distracted when sewing the pockets and ended up making coffee cups. I love coffee. Very, very much. So much that I commissioned a portrait of my favourite coffee cups. No kidding, see?

So anyway, as I was attaching the bases I started to think how much the shape looked like a coffee cup and before you know it I had the tailors chalk out and was sketching on a saucer and a handle.

So I'm looking everywhere for ideas to use up my ugly fabric. I'm somewhat contrained, or blessed depending on your point of view, by only having a square yard of it. At this stage I'm thinking cami top to go under the denim jacket. The two shall be reunited at last. Anyway, I've got another couple of weeks before the competition starts so still time to muse over the options.

I've been asked to apply for a part-time job. It's a very good one, writing exam papers. If I get it, my blogging and sewing days will not exactly be over, but impacted, for sure. After 2 years out of my career, it's really strange to think of going back to paid employment, even a little bit. I kind of liked just hanging out spending my husband's hard earned money. But as any stay at home mum will attest, my share of it was hard earned too.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I've been busy

I heart tripple knit and big needles. I've already finished the back on my cardy. In the end I choose the short one for no other reason than the shop I bought the wool from only had enough for the short one, and in this beautiful cornflower blue for no othe reason than that was pretty much all they had. Still, it's the colours I wear so who's complaining?

Next up this vogue top. Vogue 8451. The thing I love about it is that it's constructed exactly as if it's woven. That means all the construction details are completely familiar to me. Thing is, knit does not behave like woven, so if you are reading this and considering making it, I have two words for you, "twin needle." If you don't use a twin needle on the hems the seam is not stretchy enough and it breaks.

Now if you are at all taken by my licorice allsorts necklace and you are a dab hand with a pair of needles you could whip one up yourself. They are simply small squares of knit stab stiched together. I did not make this, I confess, but I wish I had.

In other news, I bought some beautiful Italian cotton shirting yesterday for a price so cheap I cannnot tell you because otherwise you'd have to kill me. Anyway, softens the blow for not winning Antoinette's shirt refashion. Now I shall just have to hunt through her site and find something to shamelessly copy. Woops I mean be inspired by.

In other news, I foresee problems with my potential ugly fabric entries. Because they are affiliated with an ethnic group (Thai hill tribe villagers) then it may be considered culturally offensive. All I can say is that it looks fantastic on them because they are golden skinned and slim, less attractive on a pinky porker. Can I just say, "ugly on me" without offence?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ugly fabric storyboard.

Here's my fabric, lining and top stitching thread, itching for action.

I'm getting my entry ready to sew up come June 1. I thought to myself, "one good lapse in taste deserves another," which is why I have opted for this McCall's denim jacket (M 5327 - out of print to my nothern hemisphere buddies but it's got another 6 months life down-under) to line with my ugly fabric. Oh that and it was half price. Ever the tight wad.

So then I thought, "a denim jacket, that's well and good, but what are you going to wear it with?' So I googled denim jacket images and it came up with many crimes against taste : le 90's, birthdate of le tacky denim jacky, has a lot to answer for.

Anyway, the best use by far of the denim jacket here:

and here:

but this was my pick of the others on option, and I like the pockets to the point I might have to copy them. The McCall's pattern has faux welts, which I loathe.

Also I think this has tres chic styling:

And I thought I might as well use it as an opportunity to improve my jacket construction skills so I bought a book on Jacket making. Will post highlights.

And low lights, for sure.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The ugly fabric contest.

As you know, I am very excited about the afore-mentioned contest and you'll be as thrilled as me (no doubt) to learn that it now has its own thread on the Pattern Review discussion board.

Ugly fabric contest thread.

Also very exciting, because they have never had this competition before they are asking for feedback on the rules. Wa hay!

My neighbour, Jenni-from-across-the-road, also had a great suggestion for my flamboyant fruits fabric and that was to turn it into lining. It's getting more and more appealing - a silk lined jacket - perfect - it can be like my "gorgon's head" I can have it all hidden and then toss around my jacket like a matador and freeze everyone in their tracks.

Here is another hot contender. A gift from my mother-in-law.

She loves me, really.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Knowing your sewing self

The Ancient Greeks believed in the philosophy of "know yourself' to the point they ingraved it above the entrance to the Delphic Oracle.

And to that I would add, "know your sewing self." My sewing self hates stash but loves fabric bargains so fabric gifts, charity shop fabrics and sale fabrics are all fair game: only I have to start using them up before they sit around glaring at me.

I also hate having sewing lists. It's up there with too much stash. The destination becomes more important than the journey: I start wanting to tick things off, get things finished, I'm dreaming about the next project while still working on the current project.That would be ok if I enjoyed it, but I don't. I end up feeling flustered and harried. And in the words of our very own modern day oracle Dr Phil, "if it's not workin' for you, don't do it."

So while I toyed with the idea of giving the latest Pattern Review contest a try, I knew it wasn't for me. 4 garments in a month, co-ordinated to go with an existing garment. Great idea, sewing things that go together, are planned and purposeful, and designed to extend your current wardrobe.

But I cannot sew 4 garments in a month and enjoy it. I said to TMB, "if I enter this contest, I'm going to need you to look after Benjy a lot in the weekend." His reply? "What doesn't kill you only makes you angry and resentful." So that was the end of that. Anyway, sewing 4 garments to a plan is just another form of oppression to me and having a one month time limit elevates it to torture.

But I liked the idea of entering one of their contests because it would be fun, and connect me to other sewers, which is what I love most about reading other people's sewing blogs - I love the sewing journey, no matter whose it is.

So I see the PERFECT sewing competition for me is coming up for me in June. The "ugly fabric" contest.

I have the perfect fabric: a charity shop "bargain." A piece of Thai silk in mint condition. It is a batik scarf, in garish colours and a bold sub tropical flowers print. It says to me "hawaiian shirt for a man whose sexual preference collocates with the word "flamboyant." I strongly suspect that some woman bought it for her mother-in-law.

But how could I leave a brand new scarf a yard wide (90cms square) with hand rolled hems, and hand painted/batiked detail languishing in the scarfs barrel?

First off I tried to make it into one of those over aprons. I pinned in darts through the bust and waist, but the proportions were all wrong. So then I looked for a pattern and found a handkerchief top, which used a yard of fabric. I found a review for it on Pattern review that started like this, " this pattern worked perfectly for my broad shoulders and small bust" and read no further.

Then I found this pattern, Simplicity 2698, a project runway skirt. I could cut the scarf into wide panels for the view which uses a contrasting bottom, pick out one of the colours to use above and make a simple knit jersey top in something plain, very plain, for the top. And then I would have my entry into the "ugly fabric competition."

If anyone else has any ideas, I welcome suggestions. I just have to enter this competition.