Monday, September 28, 2009

Burda 07-2009-104

If slim women with broad shoulders and small busts are the metaphorical clothes hangers of the fashion world then I must be the laundry basket.

Gosh it's hard to find clothes that look good and make them fit well too. I am still learning, yes, learning ALL the time.

I've been trying to use a tripod so I can take photos when TMB's at work. As soon as Benjy sees me set the timer he starts scrabbling at my legs. Sheesh! Talk about wanting to be IN everything.

I do love the shirring on this. I do also love the fabric (Italian cotton) - so soft and beautifully woven. There are definitely a few "made by loving hands" details on this. Actually, after I put in the collar stand very wonkily I looked up others who had made this dress and enlarged their photos. How lovely, one of them made a rough job too. That was very gratifying.

Anyone else out there admit to sewing schadenfreude (enjoyment at other's sewing woes)?

In fact I enjoy it so much, I thought I might start a little confessions corner, one where I show you a picture of something really wonkily sewn on the garment I just made.

But this won't be it. Please, first admire my double welt pocket.

Confessions corner: the shirt stand with a beak:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Your own best stylist

I had a dream that Trinny and Susannah turned up on my doorstep. "Your friends want you to stop making those awful home sewn outfits and go out and buy yourself some decent kit."

Last night I switched on the TV : "Trinny and Susannah are coming to NZ! Win a makeover wardrobe!" I turned it off. That's just too freaky.

All those stylists and wardrobe planning books are great and I love them. But really, I totally and sincerely believe the best person to dress me is myself.

My outfit today. I can guarantee no stylist in the world would put me in a sausage dog skirt, but it just feels sooooo me. (top, Vogue 8451, skirt puchased from the Nelson markets)

Yes, I have been reading an awful lot of wardrobe planning books - and you know what? They all flog the same message. Read one, you've read 'em all. Of course, there are slight variations, and sometimes it takes just the right exercise at just the right time to actually learn from what they all keep saying.

How my heart leapt when I spied the mother of all wardrobe planning books at the St Vincent de Paul in Kingsland. I am almost embarassed to admit that I not only remember when this book was THE book to own and even remember the thrill of getting "my colours" done Every wardrobe planning book since then has copied its formula : your colours, a capsule wardrobe, your signature style, silhouettes to flatter your body shape, editing your wardrobe, using accesories etc. Carole Jackson, I hope you made a killing.

Now one fact I did not know, but was fascinated by when reading this book, is how the whole season thing first came about. Artist Johannes Itten from the Bauhaus movement noticed that his students painted their pictures in colours that they themselves looked best in. We have a natural tendency to chose out and be attracted to those colours that we look best in! That just seems so right to me.

I am almost finished BWOF 05-2009- 104. Lots of details, lots and lots. I love the shirring, didn't quite enjoy the welt pockets, flat felled seams, collar on stand or 13 button holes so much. It's already got big thumbs down from DH. I've tried to reassure him that all BWOF looks weird to begin with. "Not weird, nurse like."

Oh dear, I hope he comes to like a woman in uniform.

Meantime, this will now have to wait to be finished until when we come back from holiday. And then I think I'll accessorize it with a name badge, a fob watch and white sneakers.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blinging it

People often ask me two things when they find out I can sew. From sewers I get the inevitable "how much of what you sew do you actually wear?" from non-sewers I get, "yes, but can't you buy it cheaper?"

Ok - honest answers. I wear everything I sew. Everything. Some things will only get a dozen or so outings, many get many more. I wear them year in year out.

If I really don't feel comfortable in something it gets pink bagged for Child cancer research. Muslins get dumped. I said I was going to be honest - no-one wants a muslin, and why force a charity to have to dump it at their expense? I make very very few muslins, partly because I'm too lazy and partly because I feel so guilty.

You really can't buy it cheaper. Seriously, you can't. Even half price Shanton (low end clothing shop, of the poor quality made by slave labour in China type) I could make cheaper.

Ok, take tunic top below (my son insisted upon being in this shot). I made this for $10 (that's about US $6), the most expensive part being the invisible zipper at the back.

Of course to make things this cheap, you have to keep you nose tuned for a bargain, and I wouldn't make too many things this inexpensively. I would make the majority of things for less than $50 (US 30) so all in all, it really is a pretty thrifty hobby.

The very fabulous Gok recokons the average British woman spends 2000 pounds on clothes. That's about $5000 NZ dollars. I reckon in a year I'd sew around 25 garments for a third of that.

I'm still reading this book. Recently I've also started reading fashion blogs, and one thing that really stands out is how complete the outfits look: shoes, bags, belts, necklaces, earrings etc.

Now in this book, another exercise I found very helpful was the "blinging" exercise. In this exercise, you give your outfit points for visual interest. Items of visual interest include: feature buttons, decoration (top stitching, piping etc) textured or patterned fabric, jewellery, non- flesh covered panty hose, accent colours, heels, bags, glasses etc - basically anything that adds visual interest.

So let's score my outfit above:

3 items of visible clothing (3 points) one of which has both texture and pattern as well as interesting buttons ( 3 extra points for the cotton velveteen tunic with wooden buttons) glasses (1), necklace(1) with accent colours (1) that gives me a visual interest score of 9. (toddler on hip, that's got to have a visual interest score too)

8 is the recommended minimum visual interest score required to have an "exciting" outfit. If I needed more points, I could add a pair of heels and a bag. The maximum number of points is 14 - so if I added a couple of bracelets, and a watch I would have overblinged it.

Here's the necklace in more detail - $10 from the Sally Army.

Friday, September 18, 2009

You remember a while back I said I had a few things to fix. Well, I've been fixing them. First up, my coffee cup jacket (McCalls 5327 now OOP)- you may recall me griping that the pattern was printed with no roll line, so that after I had done my adjustments to the bodice I had no idea where the lapel ended. I made a guess, and my guess was wrong. It just never sat flat. So I went back to the lovely ladies in the Bernina shop, bought a second button, put a new buttonhole 2 inches above the previous button hole and now we have a jacket which sits as the pattern originally intended. Here it is, ready for a life of grime.

Then there was this jacket (a now OOP butterick pattern). Made several years ago actually, and abandonned because of the step-pet. My husband had a cat and when I came into his life I faced some pretty stiff competition on the home front. This jacket, being a cotton velveteen, was definitely the loser and it became a virtual duster for her long hair. The other reason I abandonned it was the shoulder, which I had set using the gathering threads method and there it sat on my shoulders calling "home made" through puckered lips.

Since then of course, I mastered the jiggery pokery method of easing in a sleeve without gathering threads and this jacket got the resetting treatment, and with the sad (for my husband) demise of his cat, this jacket can now come out again to play. (the fantail broach is from Toast and Cupcakes and I love the way it looks like a bird is perched on my shoulder)

Although both patterns are now OOP a quick peruse of the McCalls/Butterick websites shows there are now almost identical jackets on the market so if you like the "wide lapel, no or single button do up" look there's still plenty of choice. Now that I look at these jackets I'm scratching my head as to exactly why I needed two navy wide lapel jackets in the first place. When you sew whatever you fancy, you find you fancy the same thing over and over again. Clearly there's a broken record going on in my head that says "navy jacket, go on you know you want ANOTHER one."

Anyway, I decided to take Miss Pinky's advice as a way of breaking free of the "look" rut and splashed out and bought several pieces of vintage fabric yesterday at Salvage. They are all flowy and drapey, as perscribed, but I wasn't sure of their pedigree. I thought the one on the left was probably rayon sateen, the middle one viscose and the right one silk.

A quick burn test proved I was right. If you don't know how to tell fabric by burning it, here's a quick guide.

Cut a swatch. Burn it. Does is melt? Synthetic. Does it keep burning and smell like burnt paper? Rayon. Does it slowly go out and smell like pot? Silk - it's got a herby, sweet, fragrant burny smell which is actually quite pleasant.

Now I'm not sure about patterns but I have dress lengths so anything goes. Am open to suggestion as this is all just an experiment anyway.

Finally a last piece of thrifting magic for you. The table we got last week off Trademe, where we did not get a bargain, but we did get a nice second-hand table. The coffee cup is a Queen Anne bone china set from the caring ladies in the village Hospice shop. The coffee was from my machine, a gift from my husband for giving birth. If I had known what was involved, I would have asked for a new lounge suite as well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One of the hazards of buying retro patterns is that the chances of there being a piece missing - or a piece chopped with original sewing lines no longer visible - are pretty high. I bought my pattern from a very reputable source (Kay from Salvage, who goes through every pattern checking just in case) but in this case she was fooled by what looked like a replacement piece - "piece B" the front yoke.

When I aligned it with the front piece, the facing, the back piece and the front neckline it clearly was not going to fit. However this piece was drafted, it wasn't from the original.

So I sat down with my bodice sloper and all those pieces and figured out how it should have looked. You can see my freshly drafted piece underneath, that's how far out the replacement piece was. Doesn't look too bad does it, until you think that 2 cms either side is a dress size and that I'd have been pinned into the thing.

But all's well that ends better. The new piece fits perfectly. The tunic is snug to be sure, but of course, I am going to lose weight to fit into it.

Ha ha ha a good sense of humour runs in the family.

Right oh, next stop, ahem, something flowing and drapey, on advice.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Confessions of a serial seamstress

If I had to call my blog something else, this title would be it. Hardly a breath is drawn and I'm onto my next project.

You might remember me recently discussing the mysterious case of the bodice top that was too small. In the manner of optimists I readily blamed the pattern. In the manner of pessimists the scales revealed the simple truth: I have put on weight.

And how did that happen? Um let's see. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the morning tea hostesses provide lovely home baking for us to have with our coffee while we watch our children trash the place. On Tuesday I have a few hours off and what better way to spend it than flicking through a magazine solo at a cafe with a cup of coffee and a little treat? On Thursday it's dinner out with my girlfriends and we always have dessert. And then on Sundays we make a family trip to the cafe for .. more treats.

I'm lucky I'm not as big as a house.

There's nothing for it but the quickest diet I know. Wear black. So here I am mid way through a little black 1973 retro tunic from Style. It's shaping up nicely although I can see I ..ahem... might need to let out the side seams a little.

I'm tossing up whether to make the plaid flares to match. There's retro irony and then there's retro ridiculous....hmm I'm thinking if I have to ask whether it's going to look dumb I probably shouldn't be making it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

burda 03-2009-111

OK - I couldn't wait two weeks. I sat down with the book and followed the directions step by step and finally mastered sewing the inside corner to fully bag the lining (last time I bagged a lining, a finished the tricky corner by hand.)

Just call me Miss Methodical. I just couldn't BEAR to start one project while the last was still loitering in my sewing room. Anyone else out there like that? Also, anyone else out there who doesn't keep a stash? Just like to know there are other freeko-one-project-at-a-time-no-stashers out there. Let's unite people, we need to support each other.

The thing I love about Burda is the details. Look at this one, details for Africa. 1) back waist band 2) back and front yolks 3) top stitching 4) curved lapels 5) sloping centre front 6) pocket with flap. 7) interesting darts 8) fun lining I LOVE sewing details. Take a long time though and if you get 'em wrong they sing "home sewn" louder than an opera diva.

This wool crepe was not the most co-operative fabric I've ever worked with. It didn't press up that well and it shows wrinkles and puckers and was a devil to turn out evenly. I even ended up resewing a pocket flap because it looked so wonky. What sucks about that is I specifically chose this fabric because I thought, "this looks like it would make up well." Wrong. Well, right, I do like how it turned out but it was a bit of a journey with the quick-unpick to get there.

Now excuse me, I'd best get on with wearing it. It's suddenly got real warm and springish here, very soon it will be too hot to wear a wool crepe jacket. Hate for all that work to amount to a couple of outings and a feast for the moths.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The tailoring course

We have officially finished the course (3 days, 9-3 with delicious lunches provided) but we didn't quite finish our jackets. I just have to bag the lining, and Carol has very kindly agreed for us to go back in a fortnight and show us how to finish it off doing it all by machine. So this little baby is going to have to sit tight for another 2 weeks. I will have to break my strict, "one project at a time rule" because could I not sew for 2 weeks?


Here's the technical view from Burda so you can see where we're headed (Burda 03-2009-111). It's the same as 110, only the patch pockets and top stitching make it more informal, and I decided that would probably suit my lifestyle a bit better (and be a little cuter too). We had to shift the darts because the way it's styled the darts finish at the waist and are cut out through a side seam which is hidden by the pocket. It just wouldn't work for me though, the dart would have to be shifted so much it would be cut deep into the front panel and it would look very strange. I think these 2 angled darts work quite nicely so I'm quite happy with that alternative.

The most useful thing for me was using all the different pressing equipment - especially this, the point presser and clapper. Wow, what a difference it makes to collars being able to press right into the corners without catching all the outside fabric. The clapper makes seams incredibly flat, and gives a lovely finish especially on very bulky fabric.

I bought a whole lot of pressing equipment off Carol, the point presser as well as a sleeve press and a proper ham. I can now retire my sock ham, which was certainly a great port for a storm, but the advantages of a sawdust stuffed one are clear once you start using it.

What to make next? Hmm, in the words of my neighbour Jenni-across-the-road, time for "a palate cleanser." I've pretty much made about 6 coats or jackets back to back, so I might just do a few easy quick gratification projects. Or some mending. Either way, after the last 2 gruellers anything will seem like small fry.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Looking good

So promises the title of this Palmer/Pletsch wardrobe planning publication. As a cultural artefact it makes for a fascinating read, representing as it does one kind of American woman in the early 90's. While the examples and illustrations are very much aimed at that target audience (do you take your colour swatches with you when shopping for accessories? how many day dresses do you need for church? etc) I'm interested more in its general principles to see if any of it relates to me or my lifestyle.

The first exercise has been very helpful. You are asked to fill in chart to determine your need for formal wear (evening or business), smart ( church, opera, wedding, swanky restaurant or bar etc) smart casual wear, casual wear and sportswear. You make a pie chart based on lifestyle needs. Mine looks like this:

I don't have any need for formal wear or sportswear but I bet THAT doesn't surprise you.

The next asks you to classify what's actually in your wardrobe and mine looks like this:

The difference shows you the gaps in your wardrobe. I am a stay at home mother who does not like casual clothes. You can see it in what I make. But ... it doesn't really suit my lifestyle because I also don't want my nice clothes to get covered in crap. So .... I'm going to have to do some creative thinking about how to have nice clothes that CAN get covered in crap or make casual clothes that actually look really nice.

Anyway, since I forked out $50 for the book I'm going to work through all the exercises.

And now it's back to sewing my suit jacket (that my life stlye doesn't call for) for my tailoring workshop. (cough cough)