Sunday, February 27, 2011


It is impossible to write this post without mentioning the Canterbury earthquake - the loss and trauma of the event has rocked the country. Still up here where I live, it could be another world - life carries on as usual and yet for so many life will never be the same again. My thoughts are with all effected.

I have to admit I was somewhat preoccupied by the events of this week and other personal disappointments which meant sewing wise it was not a particularly productive week. I managed to crank out two pillows and you would think I was making a wedding dress of silk chiffon with all the headache it caused me. Over pillows. Yes, pillows. (the piping, getting the measurements right, the single lapped zippers etc)

Pillow inners from the Sally Army, fabric from the Red Cross and zippers from St Vincent de Paul. That makes the whole thing not just thrifted, but worthily thrifted.

A little embroidery stitching..

I have never shown these pillows on the blog, but they are also wholesome charity shop creations. I used an old blanket and various bric a brac picked up on my op shop travels - a framed embroidered picture, now framed with piping, a piece of fillet crochet, some old buttons, some scraps of upholstery fabric.

Accumluating these 'treasures' takes a lot of rummaging. For every successful trip to the op shop, I would leave 5 times empty handed. It also takes a bit of faith - can this 65 cm red jacket zipper really be used somehow, somewhere - after all, I don't want to turn my own home into a vestibule for the detritus that lines most charity shops.

And yes, the things I end up with are absolute bargains. Each pillow cost $4 to make (US $3) and there will be enough fabric leftover to make a couple of shopping bags which I'll probably stash away as gifts to give my son's teachers at preschool. Last year I gave them each a box of chocolates and a card that read, "here's 2 kgs for Christmas."

My obsession with thrifting bargains is in part genetic but also I must confess I love the thrill of the chase - the opportunity to realise something quite new and unexpected from such unpromising beginnings. It's a lot of fun, even when you do end up unpicking and resewing over a stupid zipper.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The pea pod linen purse

It was my mother in law's birthday recently and I made her a bag. I am feeling very virtuous about this, and I have a little fantasy that she may say proudly to her friends, "oh you like it? my daughter in law made it for me, so sweet. Does your daughter make anything for you? No? Never mind, I'm sure she's a lovely person anyway" (my own mother at this point may be saying, 'hey then where's MY bag).

Like most fantasies it is probably far removed from reality, probably about as far from reality as the deep darkest depths of the wardrobe where this little bag will end up.

At least it was fun to make. I used this free pattern from Ottobre and lined it with fabric given to me by my mother in law (which was the inspiration for this piece.)

And would you believe it, but I actually purchased the proper interfacing and bought proper linen for the outer. For once I didn't swap out for something cheaper, so the whole thing came in around $40 (US $30).

There are 2 myths about homemade bags that I immediately wish to dispel: that they are cheap to make (see above) and that they are quick to whip up. This bag, with its 4 pockets and padding and bias tape finish took as long to make as a pair of jeans. What's more it was even harder as the base is very hard to manipulate through the machine.

Surprising isn't it? Homemade bags just look like they should be cheap'n'easy.

This blog post wouldn't be complete without the compulsory scowl shot, but actually I want to show you the proportions against a human body because although it's called a purse, it must be one designed for Imelda Marcos and several pairs of shoes.

Let me now talk a little about fabric graffiti as several of you expressed interest in this idea. It is not my idea at all, I got it from a book I am reading called "Alchemy arts" - here on the front cover you can see her taking to her petticoat with a felt tip. (She's putting BIRDS on it pa ha ha aaaaaahhh).

I had to google around to find the setting instructions. The general consensus is to heat treat the pen first (good dry press on the hottest temperature your fabric will tolerate) then soak in a solution 1 litre of water to 1/2 cup salt. Some recipes also include 1 cup of white vinegar.

After the first wash, it looks pretty good. There is some bleeding in some places, minor only, so my guess is that the heat setting part of the process is crucial to the overall 'take' of the pen.

And now I am going to confess something to you, this skirt is going to the deepest darkest depths of my wardrobe, because I don't like it.

Strange isn't it? Things that should work, don't, things that shouldn't work, do. A pencil skirt should work, sausage dogs having fun are my favourite motif. It should all work, but it doesn't. I don't regret for a second giving it a go though, that's the only way to know for sure. What's more you never know where this experiment might lead.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Put a dog on it*

I am really enjoying my subscription to La Mia Boutique. I haven't been able to sew much from it yet, because of the seasonal differences, but the patterns are both simple and unusual, a combination that I really enjoy.

As part of my month of "make do and mend" - I decided to use up some scraps to make a test garment for LMB 12-2010-18.

The lovely thing about a test garment is you can test all kinds of things, so I thought why not try out some fabric graffiti?

Fabric graffiti is where you take your trusty sharpy and have some fun doodling on the fabric. To permanently set the sharpie thereafter, you need to heat set it with a hot dry iron, then soak in a salt solution, then forever after wash in cold water.

I decided I would go with my favourite motif: the fun loving daschund, here involved in some smelling activity, some of it more savoury than others.

I wore this out this morning and received no comments either good or bad, which probably reflects my feelings on it. Truth be told it was fun to do, but I would probably have preferred the skirt left plain. The effect is a little over the top for me, I prefer things to be subtlety silly.

At any rate, making the skirt from scraps has enabled me to assess it as a pattern and it has great promise.

This skirt will be back in my wardrobe soon, in something more sedate.

*the title of this post refers to this fantastic youtube clip (thank you Amy for telling me about it!)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fix it February

Thank you for all you lovely comments on the Macaron dress. Yes, I see it in my future too, because having parted 40 bucks for the pattern (I can hear your sharp intake of breath from here) I want to get value for money out of it. Besides, how much easier will it be second time when all the alterations have been done already? (oh and yes, that was piping you saw, I put a line of piping in between upper and lower bodice to soften the transition between the fabrics).

I decided that this month I wanted to spend some quality time going through all my "almost nearly right" projects to see if I could make them "I really rather like this."

First up, the "frump" dress - a Simplicity one (sorry can't find the number now) which was the culmination of many bad choices. I still liked the fabric though, and decided it would benefit from some "less is more" treatment.

I got rid of the collar - which is a combined stand and collar number and never sat properly, shortened the sleeves and the hem and added a belt to give is some much needed waist shaping. A big improvement - I wore it today and got a compliment, always a good sign, because when people don't like something I make they say, "did you make that?" followed by "oh."

Next up, I had to fix the Amy Butler weekender bag. I broke the zip trying to stuff some fabric I bought at the op shop in. I don't know about you but replacing zips is not my favourite form of sewing so this time I invested in some heavy metal.

If you are thinking of sewing this bag, be warned about the fate of plastic zippers:

And look how nicely the new zip matches the lining:

Finally, I had to do something about this coat (Burda 11-2008- 107). Double breasted knee length wool coats are too hot for this climate and I will never make another. I can wear this about a week a year without overheating. The problem is that the front overlap adds considerable warmth, and has to be worn closed in order to hang nicely.

The design was always a bit of a risk. I loved the pleats and waist shaping but the collar and collar stand are totally out of proportion and have a propensity to sit flat, giving rise to the nickname, "the jester jacket."

I think the real problem for me with this coat is that it would be better on a bigger person. By bigger I mean taller and broader. All the details are so large scale that I feel a bit swamped in it.

here's another view - all in all, I didn't do too bad a job with this, but at the time it was actually beyond my skill level - my hands were shaking with fear as I finished the hems!

To fix this was going to take considerably more effort than the other two projects. I wanted to reduce the size of the collar and stand, take up the pleats at the bottom, put in some side inset pockets and convert it to a single breasted button through.

To do this, I had to get out my old pattern drafting books, because one thing I've learned about sewing, when you wing it, it shows.

Full length view so you can see the new proportions (and my white as white pants - the day is yet young):

I left the shoulder tab on as a reminder of what it had once been:

The vintage buttons I used on the front:

I really enjoyed all of these refashioning projects as they required me to be more creative than usual. What's more, all the pieces of fabric came from the Sally Army, which also made me be more creative than usual.

There are several reasons why I am "making do and mending" this month. One is because we are planning a major renovation on our house but I'm not sure when, or where we'll be living while the roof's off. I'm mentally starting some of the clean up process now. Secondly, it's easy to get into the mentality of "what's next" when you're sewing. More patterns, more fabric, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things to make. This process has enabled me to take a few steps back and it's very satisfying to bring the potential of these garments out.

So now it's back to the wardrobe to find other things that would benefit from a little attention. There is no shortage of worthy projects.