Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The first noble truth of the Buddha: life is suffering.

Fortunately, one has some lucky breaks along the way which would have me alter that truth to, "life is not unmitigated suffering thanks to the Sally Army and Nick's."

Those of you with children will sympathise that I have had a hard hard week with my 2 1/2 year old son. Is he in training with Al Quaeda? Sometimes I suspect he is. So instead of sitting down to my beloved sewing machine this week I have been sitting down with a stiff drink every night. But enough, let me show you my lovely fabric finds that gives me faith that I will find the strength and will to finish my competition entries before the September deadline.

Exhibit number 1: Merino from Nick's - another liquidation sale - these lovely sports Merino in a variety of colours available from his temporary outlet store in Barry's Point Rd. Machine washable with a nylon layer for stability and breathability.

Exhibit number 2: Sally Army fabric box: 1 metre of silk dupioni and 3 pashmina (handmade in Nepal, the softest cashmere I have ever encoutered)

OK, sometimes life is kind.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Keeping it real.

I didn't want to show you this dress, because just looking at it makes my blood pressure rise. The sewing, simplicity itself. The fit, excruciating. Without question, this is the most unpicked and resewn item of clothing in my entire wardrobe. Even now I can see I shaved too much off the bust apex causing a ripple through the upper chest. it's too late, I am too over it. If my son was still having afternoon sleeps, if I wasn't sewing with the very last vestiges of energy late at night, yeah, I could have made this work.

I have a hard time with retro patterns, the line between retro chic and retro chit gets narrower with every passing year. I just feel, well, a little ridiculous in this dress, despite my attempts to modernise it and make it lifestyle friendly in a cuddly chambray.

The dress has this little pleat on the bodice where the princess seams join, and little bows on the top. The skirt is a tulip skirt, and the pleats are supported by netting. The secret to this dress is excellent fit, so that the pleat on the bodice falls off the apex correctly. I failed.

So yes, now I can answer Sherry's first question in the game of tag.

1 What retro pattern are you thinking about?
Vogue 199. Baaaaaaaaad thoughts. I have nicknamed this dress the "gay Paree" dress because it is a Vogue couturerie design. I bought the belt from Vanilla Ink (designer dress store in Auckland - nice clothes, high prices) - it was 75% off. The shop assistant said to me, "it's pure leather, excellent quality, I just can't understand why it hasn't sold." Well, you don't have to be a freudian analyst to work it out. It appealed to my sense of humour though and I can't believe such a conservative shop did not notice what they were selling. It's a little annoying though, because when you have it on the tightest setting it's a little, shall we say, flaccid.

So unless I run out of time for the competition, I will not be submitting this dress. That's OK, I totally accept that not all sewing journeys take you to paradise.

2) One place I want to visit?
Actually Paris. You see I have this PERFECT dress for it.

3) How do I relax?
With a glass of wine.

4) What is your favourite holiday?
Many favourites, can't choose.

5) One sewing skill I'd like to try?
I'd really love to learn industrial sewing for that perfect finish.

6) Can you knit, crochet, any other crafting talents?
Knit, yes, crochet, yes, quilt, yes, cook, yes, bake, yes, garden NO NO NO.

7) What garment do you wear the most.
Pass. I wear all my clothes, all the time. I am one of those people who opens their wardrobe and says, "what haven't I worn for a while?" and if I can't make it work, I move it on to a charity shop pronto.

8) How much time do you spend reading blogs?
More now that I have less time. If you can't create much yourself, it's nice to share other's journeys.

9) Your motto, mantra?
It ain't over till it's over.

Now if you would like to play along, pick up this tag and run with it. And if you haven't visited Sherry's blog, then you are missing a treat. Not only is she a professional with beautiful photographs, she sews Burda.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Flirt item #3

The technical view:

Burda 05-2009-116

A theme is emerging. Tulip skirts. None of it planned, just based on what the fabric wanted to do. This wool is so light and so drapey, and I loved the idea of keeping the original design (pleated at the waist) but modernising it. And the fact the fabric actually features tulips made it perfect.

Also I loved the bow on this design. I have a big tummy so I usually shy away from waist detail, but on this skirt, it absolutely makes it. I used the hem of the lining fabric to make the bow. It's cut on a slight curve because it's all I had left, which is why the seams are not true, and there is a big seam running across the middle. I put the bow on hooks and sewed my own little "eye" onto the front in thread. That way I can un-hook the bow when I want to wear a long top over the top and not worry about the bulk underneath.

I also lengthened the skirt 2 inches. As you know, Burda models like to sport a lot of leg. They also have fabulous gazelle like legs to sport. With a tulip skirt you have to alter the final length very carefully. You can't just whack off or extend the bottom, you have to redraw the entire side seam to preserve the final circumference. Otherwise you cannot walk: the angle gets too narrow if you follow the slanting trajectory.

Other than that, it was an extremely easy sew and a relatively painless refashion - not too much unpicking, lots of fabric, not too many seams etc.

Now, may I be smug for a moment? In addition to reusing the outer fabric, I also re-used the original lining (resewing it to fit the new shape of the skirt, and using the hem for the bow) and zipper. I left the original tags in the lining to make me feel thin. I used thread I had lying around and I used interfacing I got from the Sally Army, absolute top quality interfacing, 3 metres for $1. Don't hate me because I know how to find a bargain.

All in all, a happy refashion, and for the grand total of $15.50.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Flirt item #2.

Pattern: Burda 01-2009-105

With the creation of this item, my wardrobe is now committed. By this I mean that now the proportions and the colour of the skirt have been set, everything now must follow. The 4 tops must all go with this skirt, and they must all go with the other 3 bottoms. By choosing a patterned bottom, I will probably have to make all plain tops, by choosing knee length I am committed to tops that suit that proportion.

Not that I should really let this bother me. Am I the only one who looks at the wardrobe contest entries and thinks, "yes it goes really nicely with that skirt you've put it with for the photo, but there's no way it would go with those pants?" In other words, people do whatever suits them and their needs and I say all power to them.

This skirt was a true test of the "flirt" concept. Just in case you think I contorted a whole lot of initials to come up with something cute, let me assure you this was not the case. With this skirt, I needed every single one of these principles (faith, luck, intuition, risk, trust).

The vintage fabric was from Salvage, the second hand fabric shop in siren's hearing of my house. I often get sucked in their for a purchase. I have loved this fabric for so long, but each time put it back because it is pure polyester. Humid climate + polyester = sweaty mess. Last time we were in there my son trashed the store so quickly and so thoroughly that I had no time to think, I just grabbed it and said, "this time you're mine."

When I got home I remembered why I had always resisted. The challenge was to turn polyester into something comfortable, and for that I turned to Nick's for some linen. This is where the luck came in.

If you don't know Nick's, it's a clearance store on Dominion rd, which gets most of its fabric from things that don't shift at its upmarket parent store, Global fabrics (Australians will know this as "the fabric store'). It is home to what Nick himself calls " some real dogs." Personally, I'd call them mongrels. However, amongst a lot of trash there is pure treasure. If you know what you are looking at, you can pick up some real bargains.

This striped linen is one of them, and it came to the store via a clean out at Global. As they were loading up the truck, the guys said, "put something nice in there for our customers. Give them a treat." So this pure linen, which was too summery for winter sewing, got loaded up.

Before I went to bed that night, I thought to myself, "how can I put these two fabrics together."

And this skirt is what I literally dreamed up. The pattern, how to put the fabrics together, even the construction, it all came to me in a dream. In the morning I awoke and thought, "noooooooooo, not quilting."

But then I remembered the promise to follow my intuition and so I did it, and it does a good job of keeping the overskirt and underskirt together.

If I had sat down to plan a wardrobe, I would never have planned this.

And I wouldn't have planned this either: what tight-wad wardrobe is complete without a refashion? Let's see what I can do with this pleated mid calf length pure wool challis skirt from the Red Cross.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thank you all for your lovely comments, you are too kind (except you, Miss Smith, you are too funny). When I saw how the coat looked in the photos I knew I really had a pressing issue with the puckers. When I solicited help from the PR board, I loved Em Summer's response - "unpick it and redo it, I wouldn't wear it out like that." It was exactly what I was thinking too. I certainly didn't want to enter it into a competition under my name, even one I was counting on losing.

Thank goodness for the wonder of a google search then, when I found the cure was simply a thickly tufted towel away. You can steam press velveteen on a towel, whose tufting protects the fibres from being flattened by the iron. I then covered my pressing ham with a thick tea towel, likewise the sleeve board and voila, the worst of the puckering has been dealt too. For a really good finish, I should have nicked the seam allowances every three inches to allow the fabric to lie completely flat. But I do not have time to resew a coat.

I have 10 weeks and nine garments.

Doesn't the back look so much better? (I forgot to do up the button again, it's there under the flap)

Now you can see the flowers on the button better:

Ok I'll put my name to this:

Crack! Crack ! The sound of the whip telling me to move onto the next project,

Pattern: Simplicity 2508

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Flirt item #1

Well seeing as though I'm not actually sewing a SWAP I thought I'd better come up with my own acronym.

I am sewing a FLIRT.

F for faith because you have to believe in your own creative capabilities when working with such restrictions; Luck, because stumbling across beautiful bargain price fabrics and finding just the right pattern requires it; I for intuition - because this kind of wardrobe relies on gut feeling alone; R for risk, you have to take a chance on things and T for trust - trust that in the end, the whole thing will come together.

Let me present you with Flirt item 1. The fabric is another Sally Army special - some cotton velveteen I picked up for $4. I wasn't overly keen on it but I thought it would make a good muslin for a suede jacket I was going to make. Instead I turned it into Simplicity 2508 . The fabric is horrible to press and I had to do it delicately under a press cloth and on the wrong side to avoid crushing the thin pile into a matte mess. The back in particular looks like it needs a long hot loving encounter with the iron. I think before I submit this for the competition I will have to get it drycleaned - and hand pick the hem as I bagged the lining and pressing alone will not support the turn up. (harumph!) However, I think you will agree with me that the back storm flap is a cute detail.

The lining is special though and I won't for a minute pretend it was a bargain I picked up after beating off other hopefuls. I got this from Salvage, where I paid a respectable price for a piece of vintage rayon. It is second hand though, so that's good enough for me.

The buttons were another Salvage find, $12 for a card of twelve, and I have been longing to use them ever since I first saw them. With this project I thought they would lift the garment and they match the lining too. I also love the feminine flowers on the trench styling - something so fragile and delicate on a military inspired design.

Well now my coverall is over and done with. I'm quite pleased about it because it can take me several weeks to make a coat and I banged out this one in just on a week, thanks in part to Queen's Birthday weekend and a husband on child minding detail, but mostly because this coat is very simple and I had already done all the fitting on the last version.

This version - gun flaps on the front, storm flap on the back, pleated cuff on bracelet length sleeve,aqua buttons, aqua top stitching.

There are so many ideas pushing around my head about what to make next. Who would have thought a wardrobe competition could be so much fun?

It's a good thing I'm enjoying myself because first prize is a an online class and a pattern, second prize is a pattern. For not winning, I thought I'd console myself with a subscription to La Mia Boutique - which at about $300 - will definitely be worth losing for.

post editing note: I have found out how to remove the puckers from the velveteen - press wrong side in the direction of the nap with a steam iron on top of a thick towel. Thank god for that - because if I'd had to take it to the dry cleaners I would have spent more on laundering than I did on the coat.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The thing about saying, "I would never.." is that sometimes you do. Like me and SWAP's (sewing with a plan) - I hate having a list of things to sew. I feel pressured and harried. But the time is right - I feel like a challenge - and the challenge I have opted for is to sew the 10 piece wardrobe for the Pattern Review wardrobe contest. Nothing like jumping in at the deep end.

HOWEVER, knowing myself, I am going to do it my way. That means NO PLANNING. It's going to be a Sewing Without a Plan SWAP. I am going to make one garment at a time. At the end of each garment I am going to decide what to sew next based on what I feel like sewing and how well it fits with the last item. The process will be organic and responsive to whatever inspires me.

My theme is based around my love of a bargain. I am going to only use second hand, thrift store items, sale items, end of season sale fabrics and manufacturers clearance. That goes for patterns too - whatever's in stash, or I can download for free, trace out of Burda or buy on sale.

I am thinking of a title and here are my thoughts, please let me know if any of these appeal:

- Serendipity chic
- Shoestring style
- Second to none
- Leftover love
- Your trash, my treasure.

Here's what my husband said, "It's not going to work. You have no control over your input but you will be judged on your output."
I laughed, "I am not young. I am not thin. Granny chic does not have universal appeal and I take a crap photo. It's a done deal I won't win, the point is to participate and have fun. If I'm lucky I might have a nice outfit at the end."

My first garment is the coverall - a coat, of course. And as it happens to co-incide with the Trench sewalong, I'd thought I'd sign up for that too.

Now please excuse me, I have a lot of garments to sew.

ps. Kbenco, see what you've started!!!

- if my son starts sleeping badly again all bets are off
- I reserve the right to lame out