Friday, August 28, 2009

Make do and mend

Well, tomorrow I start my 3 day P/P tailoring workshop where I will add another fitted jacket to my collection! I'm really looking forward to improving my sewing skills and having 3 childfree sewing days is a luxury of my wildest dreams. (OK, it may not be my wildest dreams but parenthood has a way of tempering fantasy)

I never got round to my basics this month what with one thing and another but it's a theme I'm keen to return to, but first some unfinished business: here is a pile of projects I label "near successes" - with a little bit of reworking I'm sure I can pull off something I am much happier wearing.

You may be able to recognise the shirt dress in there - it's the ruffle people, I just don't like it, was I channeling holly hobby?

I still love the fabric, but I need to make something I feel comfortable in, literally.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Burda 05-2009-125, the shirt dress.

From the back, I decided to declutter the front by tieing the waist sash at the back. Don't you love the wallpaper-esque pattern on the silk?

I love shirt dresses. I associate them with middle age middle class women, and hey, guess what? That would be ME. When I saw this style in Burda May edition I knew I would be making it up, they have succeeded in doing something I thought impossible: they made the style young and fresh.

Actually, I was thinking they may have been a little TOO successful at it, that it might be a little too young with its ribbons and gathers and bows. First thing I tried to tone it down a bit, by only using half the amount of ribbon and pleating the skirt instead of gathering it. I de-boufed it quite a bit that way.

It has usual appalling burda instructions which I didn't, as usual, read but recoursed to my old standby Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing for picture by picture accounts of collar with stand and cuffed sleeve with continuous vent placket.

The silk was a nice friendly compliant variety and I had no problems with cutting and sewing.It has the most gorgeous lustre.

Even though this pattern is "frou" and not "frou frou" after my de-boufing endeavours I'm still not comfortable in it - literally, it's too tight across the chest. This is weird - I made all my usual alterations, I checked the pattern to see if I'd mis-traced anything - re checked my measurements - no, I don't know what went wrong but the front facing has been drafted 2 cms smaller than usual. Maybe they wanted a super-fitted style to hold the shirt in tight to the chest? Human error? The finished front and back measurements through the bust are identical. It's been drafted like you've got boobs on your back. It's true there are days I feel like that, but that's a bit odd, don't you think?

Owww - toooo tight!

In this case, it's a good thing. Here's what I'll do. I'll refashion it - the fabric is too gorgeous to lose. The first thing to go will be the pleats at the bottom. Don't you love how I said I'd never do another refashion and here I am doing it - that's because in situations like these, my inner tight wad always wins!

This weekend is my tailoring course, so I'm going to make another jacket. I think I'm going to go with the Burda WOF one, and you can bet your bottom (middle and top) dollar that I will be tissue fitting the whole thing very carefully.

post editing note:

Thanks Judy.. of course, I can let out the princess seams! Thank goodness I didn't overlock them together as I sometimes do...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's only a hobby.

From this:

To this:

back view

That's what I tell myself when I look perilously close to taking myself too seriously on the sewing front.

Thank you for your advice about my jacket. I can tell you now that I've finished it that you were all right. How can that be? Simple - the proportions of the jacket required it to finish at the fullest part of the hip, but the pre -existing welts looked wierd held in suspension on my waist line. The only way they belonged to the jacket was to place them two thirds down the front and then they were proportional to the hem length.

No matter which way I cut it, something was going work and something was not going to work.

That, I feel, will be my first and last refashion. It was twice the work of cutting from scratch and I had to think all the time. Fancy that! Thinking all the time! At no point could I just sit down and sew something, I had to figure out how to I was going to make those pieces come back together. And how to reinterpret the design? I couldn't just sew the pattern as is.

So that's when I came up with my "it's only a hobby" mantra - take the stress out of seamstress.

It was that mantra that lead me to purchase some silk I fell madly in love with from Global fabrics. "It's my hobby, who cares if I ever wear it." (you see how useful this mantra is for justifying any kind of wildly-inappropriate-to -lifestyle fabric choices.) I had in mind Burda 05-2009-125. I was thinking that the style was too young for me, with all those frou frou details - you know the gathering and ribbons etc, but then, once again, my mantra came to the rescue. "Who cares if you're too old for it, you know it's only a dress, and making that dress is your hobby."

Here it is pinned ready for sewing on the dress from. When I bought the fabric I thought it was randomly lined, imagine my horror to find they form a 4 line repeat print that needed to be matched! Too late, I'd cut it out AND I bought the last 3 metres in the shop. Guttered. Non matching horizontal lines, how that cheapens a garment.

Thank goodness it's only a hobby.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Decisions, decisions.

The front : full length, collar closed as per original pattern

or : the back, mid hip length

Or : worn open at the neck to form a revere with contrasting facing, full length and faux, yes faux, pocket

I'm in the final stages (throes) of this Chanel jacket. Every stage has required a number of decisions because I stated with a jacket that was too small and had to make it bigger. Cut from here, steal from there, follow this or that design decision? Every part of the construction has had to be thought through very carefully.

And now it's the final finishing touches - the hem length - mid hip or full hip? Faux pocket or no? Worn closed as the pattern intended or open in a revere style? And the most important question of all, what do I need to do to make sure I will wear it?

I could smirk it up and wear it with a kerchief (you know, the style that got Joe eliminated from last season's Project Runway) and a faux military badge from Exclusive Buttons (which I won in my craft haul, on the back of the label it reads, "awarded to domestic warriors for their service and commitment on the home front").

Advice desired. Must wear this jacket or TMB will never let me forget it. "You cut up my jacket for this? At least I wore it twice."

And then I will finish it and blog about it over here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Booty & Booty

Ok here is my third attempt at McCalls 5142 and it's definitely the best so far: the first were "hanging about " pants - too tight through the crotch to sit down, the second were "hanging loose" pants - where I overcompensated for making them too small first time round. Third time's the trick. Straight out of the wash they fit perfectly. Then slowly the weave loosens out as it warms up and they finally end up looking like this. I think that's not bad, personally. I'm standing on a slope so they're more wrinkled than real life. They're fitted without too much wedgie in the booty.

I read recently in a magazine that 1 cm of cleavage was acceptable in NZ for a buisness meeting. Cleavage is Ok - but extraneous butt detail does not go down well here. I think this is the opposite to the States - women seem to wear their pants very fitted through the derriere but shy away from low cut tops. That's the impression I get anyway.

The reason I perservered with these pants is because I like the leg shape - they taper only about half an inch from the hip to the knee where they fall straight. They're bootleg technically but they look like a slim straight leg. There gets an age people, where this cut becomes your friend.

Now the top is of course where I'm at with my Chanel jacket. I can only sew one project at a time, so now I've started this jacket I have to finish it. It's slow progress because there are so many challenges. When I tried it on this morning I had this sudden flash back. I remembered mocking my husband second time he wore it, back when it was his Armani jacket, "it looks like a clown suit." He never wore it agin.

Needless to say, I'm rethinking my cream buttons, cream piping trim idea.

Now the second "booty" in the title of this post refers to the necklace I'm wearing. I won a whole lot of stuff in a raffle this week. As a way of saying thank you to all those who donoted to the raffle I thought I'd mention a few pieces over a few posts. First up today, my little polymer and crystal hei tiki necklace from Vicki Morehu . The two other goodies I thought I'd mention are already in the recycle bin. A bottle of delicious Chardonnay from Shingle Peak and a box of Schoc Chocolates. Thanks guys, they were delish!

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I have finished my muslin for the Chanel jacket sew along. I detailed the process here - so won't bore you by going into details. I am so impressed by my sew along buddies though, one of them spent 100 hours on her last Chanel jacket. I'm in the midst of pros. Oh well, someone's got to lower the tone to keep it real. I volunteer myself.

My son wakes every morning between 5 and 5:30 but this morning it was a quarter to 5, which was particularly cruel, I thought. Anyway, when he went down for his sleep this afternoon I grabbed a bit of shut eye myself, and when I woke up, I thought, "cream buttons, cream piping, collared version, mid hip length." Three quarter length sleeve? Maybe.

You know why Chanel had so many patch pockets on her jackets? Because she was a stick insect. She probably never finished a meal in her life. Fortunately the amount of fabric available to me, and the position of the original pockets mean I can't add anything, which I feel can only be a good thing.

I can get the whole jacket out of TMB's jacket - my only real challenge was to find the fabric between "man no tits no butt jacket" and mine. That little strip under the arm is the difference between his chest/hip and mine. I can get it out of the inside facings, just.

There is barely a millimetre to spare, anywhere. Actually, in a few places there is going to be less than a millimeter to spare, like the original two button holes which will still be visible but non-operational. We'll call those bits "character" details.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Inside an Armani jacket

I am making a Chanel style jacket. A slight deviation from my "basics" theme but it's because of this sew along.

I am reworking one of TMB's old jackets (worn twice in 20 years) and one that I really didn't like on him (big extended padded shoulders, it was the 80's) . It's a big project, but even if everything fails miserably I am happy in the knowledge that he, at least, will never be able to wear it again.

Last night I spent a couple of hours in front of the TV (watching Grand Designs, which seemed appropriate) unpicking it. I was very curious to know what was going to be inside, being interested in tailoring and all. Now this jacket is over 20 years old, and although it is RTW and not bespoke, I was pretty sure I'd find some interesting treatment inside.

The front is padded with hair canvas and lambswool and graded through to the facings and up to the shoulder. It had both sleeve head supports as well as sleeve cap easing lambswool strips. It had strips of bias running around the shoulder seams. None of the seams were neatened, everything was raw, which made unpicking so much easier.

The lining was stab stitched through the seams of the entire arm hole which is something I've read somewhere you should do to secure the lining but never bothered myself. It was also stab stitched the entire length of the inside facing. The lining is just gorgeous and it's got little inside pockets everywhere.

I am now working on the pattern. I will have to use the fabric from the facings to add extra width to the hip and bust area, probably by creating extra panels at the side. I will also have to do some careful cutting and dart placement to work round the welt pockets in the jacket front.

I love the pattern instructions from my 1970 pattern. They remind me of Burda: "make bound button holes." Just like that. No instructions or pictures on anything. Just make 'em. Bound.

Such a challenge, but how exciting is that?