Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hello everyone.

I had hoped to show you a pair of jeans that I made after taking a sewing class with Sherry, you know the Sherry.  However, I made a few construction and fitting errors with them and they need work and I'm unmotivated. They sit waiting to be unpicked and refitted. And sit. And sit.

I haven't sewn for months and I have lost all interest in it. Burdastyle magazine came into the shop and I wandered down several weeks later to pick it up. No hurry,  I thought.

All my creative energy at the moment is going elsewhere - cooking and planning for some big transitions.

So rather than let this blog limp along I thought I would bring it to completion : to borrow from  the poet  T S  Eliot, "this is how the universe ends, not with a bang, but a whimper."

Or perhaps, just a final smirk.

All the best everyone, thanks for playing along  xxx

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hello there, blog friends and family, remember me?  I am still here, never fear.  And here's a little treat I have for you today: Karen's Studded Shoulder Bag, from Pieceful Life Designs.  She sells her bag patterns through Patchwork passion and apparently if you email them they will send it out to you, including international purchases. Link here: http://www.patchworkpassion.co.nz/patterns_1.html

Isn't she a beauty? Isn't this so totally me? Let me count the ways.

1) made with lilac tweed purchased from thrift shop

2) lined with fake shantung purchased from thrift shop. Pattern includes internal pocket and key ring.

3) wouldn't the Queen mum have just loved its delightful texture in shades of lavender?

4) the kit of hardware you purchase with the bag pattern has really good quality sturdy studs.

5) it neatly fits all things required for my lifestyle - sunglasses, umbrella (often used simultaneously) sketch book, purse, keys, snack box.

6) the proportions of the bag are really aesthetically as well as practically pleasing. I have included a body shot so you can see how the bag sits on the body. 

a new bag with an old bag

We made the bag in our sewing guild meeting, and we were lucky enough to have Karen (the designer of the bags) herself be our tutor. A whole day of uninterrupted sewing. A room full of sewing enthusiasts. Learning new techniques. Priceless.

Sometime this weekend I will write a Pattern Review for this bag and enter it into the bag making competition. It would be nice to win of course, but if there is one thing I have learned from my journey over the last couple of years, sometimes just being able to participate is a victory in itself.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Kilt is Reborn

Ottobre 02-2007-12
Reincarnation is the belief that our soul is preserved wholesale and transferred to a new body; rebirth is the belief that some essential essence is passed on, a unique energy force if you like, but not necessarily a fully preserved personality delivered to a new form.

I like to think of this skirt as a "rebirth".  I preserved some of the likeness of the original, and kept some of the features that made the original what it was, but changed it to make it more my style.

The skirt cost me $4 at a church fair. I was told it belonged to the minister. It was made by a kilt maker in Scotland, so the inside label told me. I love knowing about its past life. I reused the zipper and the lining, waste not want not, that's the Scottish way, and certainly the way I was raised, and from a world ecology point of view, the way to go.

the original skirt, pleated front and back, mid calf length

I wanted to reference the pleats, so topstitched the outer fold and pressed out the inner ones. I needed pockets so put in some front welts. I used scraps of plain silk to avoid the clash of lines that a bias strip of tartan would create and put on a double set of vintage ochre buttons to visually anchor the solid piece of colour to the front.

silk welt pocket with vintage button decoration, faux pleats

committing to the look: vintage bag, hand knitted gloves, thrifted pashmina, thrifted button necklace, thrifted jumper, woolen singlet

This skirt is part of a complete "nanna chic" outfit I have in mind. The other pieces comprise a shirt and a cardigan.  I will chip away at it over the next wee while. We'll see how it unfolds.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Smug up-cycled pillow cluster

I promised I'd post my "smug up-cycled pillow cluster" for my sister.  The title comes from this website, and I feel there is just enough smugness in this compilation to reference it.

The story behind these fabrics is a good learning lesson for anyone who buys fabric off the Internet. I saw the tartan fabric and instantly thought, "Rupert bear trousers" - as you do. When I asked the seller what the composition was she said, "I don't know, but it has some wool in it."  It was cheap, so I took a risk. When it arrived it was immediately obvious that it was upholstery fabric.

So I made them in to cushion covers for our reading pillows. I just used whatever we had on hand to fasten the back closures - a heavy zipper applied externally and a button flap.

The new couch cushions though, were 'internet buying lesson'  in BOLD and CAPITALS.

I saw the fabric, liked it, and put an auto bid on. Several days later, I noticed that the description had changed to include evidence of damage. Was that added later or was it always there and I was too quick to put in a bid to read properly? I didn't know, and that worried me, because obviously I wasn't paying enough attention.

Then when the fabric arrived it had sun fade and 3 hems. Yes, not only was it heavily damaged it had also been heavily used - a salient fact the seller failed to mention.

She offered to refund, but I would have lost half the value in return postage so declined - better to have something to show for it. I made these cushions and they are nice. They won't last - the fabric has several small wear and tear holes that can only get bigger.

My experiences have not put me off buying vintage fabric from the Internet - after all, it is the only place to buy it these days. However, I've developed a little protocol:

1) always read the description carefully
2) ask for verification of fabric if in doubt- has the seller done a burn test?
3) work out in advance what the fabric is worth to me, and never exceed that price in the auction
4) place auto-bids only a day or two before the auction closes, to allow for "updates" from the seller
5) accept that the fabric will be different from what I expected and be prepared to change project.

Overall, I'm really happy with way I selvaged these dud purchases. Do you have any sour Internet fabric purchases? Do share.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The dress of doom redeems itself

Now you may be thinking that it was a pretty short month - that I seemingly whipped this up in a fortnight. Actually, to borrow an expression from KBenco, this was "my dress of doom," and it has been sitting on a coat hanger mocking me for months.

I really liked the idea of a fitted sheath dress and when I saw the one in Ottobre magazine (5/11 #15)  I thought it might be quite good for me. I made a muslin in what I thought was crappy fabric but it turned out to be better quality and suddenly I was under pressure to make it work. The fabric was an unfortunate mix of wool and polyester that wouldn't press except under a lot of steam and then the polyester in it warped under the heat. I tried all kinds of tricks to hide the steam damage, including covering the worst of it with an exposed zipper.  When my husband commented that it looked like something you would wear to a funeral I realised I had created something that I would never wear.

And so there it hung on the coat hanger for several months while I thought about what to do with it. One day it just came to me. I sat down unpicked the whole thing, traced a new pattern from it, and threw it in the bin. No remorse or guilt. I had just learned what I needed to learn from it and now it was time to set it free from its wire prison.

And I'm in good company - to quote Karl Lagerfeld, "the most important piece of equipment in my design room is my rubbish bin, because that's where 95% of my stuff goes."

Using the new pattern, I made this dress over the last 2 weeks using some vintage cotton.  Once again I didn't have enough fabric so used a half sleeve, which I think is more flattering anyway. I made a few small alterations - used the v neck from view #17, and gathered the darts to the waist rather than fitting them.

The "v" is actually a nice modest affair, as you would expect from Ottobre, here made more modest by a woolen singlet underneath.

Ottobre 5/11 #15 "the old school teacher dress" 
To get the close fit though the bust I had to use 3 darts. In the interests of fit I am showing a close up although no doubt there's some tradesperson from Target having a good time right now.

the 3 dart FBA

I think I'll try this dress again, in wool as designed, and in a more subdued palate. However, it will have to go to the bottom of the cue, since I have recently won myself some patterns I am very excited about. I won, not one, but two giveaways this week (how lucky is that) from Karin and Suzy .

And while we are on the subject of winning, I am very humbled to have been nominated for 3 blog awards. Humbled because I don't get time to sew much, what I make can only appeal to the tastes of very few people, and this blog is not always a dress of roses. Thank you for nominating me, Elle C, Valerie  and Steph.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sanity has been restored in our household dear blog friends, by the little prince (how I refer to him in my head) settling into a new sleep routine that doesn't start at 4:30 am and involve intense activity thereafter.

And we are all the better for it.  Yes I am a slave to the kitchen with our very restricted diet (no gluten, dairy, cane sugar, additives and preservatives) but I am really enjoying it. I am enjoying how much better I am feeling (less lethargic at night) as well as no more tummy problems which have plagued me since birth.

And the little prince is progressing fabulously - it's a bit of a roller coaster but I am learning to be more objective and not overly identify with whether things or going well or badly.

Because I have to spend so much time cooking, my sewing time suffers, and what's more, in the spirit of "what you give attention to, flourishes" I have found myself taking cook books to bed and checking food blogs first thing in the morning (further evidence that I have gone over to the dark side.)

However, I still manage to get to the machine now and then, and this is what I managed to put together this month.

The fabric was the vintage crepe I purchased in Dunedin in March. I do love to have a quick turn around with fabric. For me, if it gets interred in stash I'll lose interest and it will be a long time before I get back to it.



Original pattern. You will see I had to improvise due to fabric constraints. I added a ribbed cuff and collar because I was about a half metre short to cut the whole thing as designed. I then added a zip and made it casual jacket style:

The lovely lining from Hawes and Freer - New Zealanders if you are not aware of this wonderful quality wholesaler visit their website now. They retail through the Internet and you can get some beautiful linings as well as quality tailoring materials. Also check out the $90 a metre cashmere. I dare somebody to buy some.

Now I would like some advice. What would pair this teal jacket with? The original pattern suggests plaid flares. I am a little unsure of this fashion direction. I was thinking some kind of boldly patterned dress with boots?

Hmm, well do chime in with your advice and I'll see you all again next month.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Of late, sewing has been a difficult thing around here. I can tell you, without any compromises to any individual's privacy, that I am exhausted at the end of each day. Many people find the pre-school years challenging, but the level of challenge I have faced would be the stuff of most people's nightmares.

I think the kind of journey I have been through having a child with the kind of disability mine has, has left me with the mentality that life is what it is. My thinking has been hugely shaped by 2 books, "Man's search for meaning" by Viktor Frankl, and it was this book about managing suffering that helped me when things were very low. Also I have been hugely influenced by the writings of Zen Buddhist teacher Charlotte Joko Beck - the philosophies are very powerful: life is what it is, and in full experiencing whatever that is, is the joy of life.

And if nothing else, you should see our diet! It is so healthy. We have cashew nut kefir smoothies with vegetable juice for breakfast,and that's only the beginning. I sometimes think I should show you all the cooking I've been doing because that is where all my creativity is going.

I made a pair of corduroy pants for winter. They are nothing special. I used Burda 7192 - it has some interesting design features. They have this interesting fly facing, and the front topstitching is angled to match:
And this strange pocket flap which I immediately sewed down:

The back view is why cord gets a bad rap. It never does anyone's backside any favours - could be a granny style cardy opportunity, that's what I am thinking:

The front. I like the flare of these cords. And they are, after all, super comfortable which is why we do such unkind things to our flabby tummies and saggy botties.

I love how they feel on, but think that this is not the right pattern for corduroy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Still alive, still kicking

I got quite the surprise yesterday to receive not one but two queries about my blog absence. Fancy that! People read my blog!

A whole kaleidoscope of events have got between me and my sewing machine and me and the computer. It's pretty simple, actually, time and energy - never enough of either. Oh and a difficult project that I am a little lost in.

I am working on the Ottobre sheath dress from the 05/2012 - appropriately named "old school teacher" dress. You have got to hand it to Ottobre, they know their market well.

It relies on perfect fit to achieve any kind of class. The plan was to make a quick test garment and adjust only I got stymied by my fabric which turned out not to be a "Nick dog" (that's what Nick calls the worst of the detritus in his shop) but a Nick pure breed. Pure wool gabardine. Suddenly it had to be unpicked and resewn with respect. Gabardine is not the easiest fabric either - it's easy to under or over press. The dress oscillates between darts that hardy hold their crispness to steam puckers around the zip. Hardly any of the seams are 'just so.'

Still I persist and I hope my diligence shall be rewarded with a beautifully fitted sheath dress that looks more 'school mam chic' than 'old teacher.'

In the meantime, I have some more unpicking on it to do, so it won't be until well after Easter.

I did make a pair of corduroy trousers (Burda 7738). They are a little pajama like in their appearance and in their comfort level, so I feel very on trend. (am I the only person out there to mock the current fashion for night wear as day wear?)

I do also want to share with you some fabric purchases, which I hope you will enjoy. I went to Dunedin last week for a family celebration and popped into the Caroll St branch of the Presbyterian Support Services charity shop. They collect all fabric donated to them over the year and have a big sale one Saturday in June. They kindly let me browse out the back of the shop in storage those fabrics yet to be sent to the warehouse. I found these 4 lovely fabrics.

1 piece of NZ milled wool, complete with label for you to sew into your garment (how thoughtful), in Granny lavender
2 dress length pieces of wool crepe
1 piece of Irish tweed.

Aren't they lovely? The great thing about Dunedin is that vintage wool is perfectly preserved, not even a hint of moth damage. I never once growing up had to worry about weevils in my rice, moths in my cupboards or ants in my sugar. The cold climate sure has its advantages, even bugs like to eat their meals in comfort.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It started with a tooled leather bag

La Mia Boutique pattern number 733, 2011

Now you may be wondering why it occurred to me to start making cowgirl shirts. When I bought my tooled leather bag I did a google search to find out about their pedigree and discovered they were part of the western genre. Now tell me, my north American sewing friends, does it seem strange to you to see someone on the other side of the world in a temperate climate wearing a cowgirl shirt? Do I look ridiculous to you? I'm just curious.

The whole look:

The culprit:

At any rate, I love this look. It's so fun and so comfortable! My goodness me, why isn't the world in western shirts?

I am using "the complete photo guide to perfect fitting" to refine the fit. After making this shirt, I contoured the waist and hip in a little more, made a high round back alteration and narrowed the shoulder, raised the underarm curve on the side piece and raised the front neckline, so now I have to make it again to see the effects of those adjustments.

In the book she makes multiple muslins to get that perfect fit - I prefer to make wearable muslins because I need the sewing practice, I like to have something to show for my efforts and I can't bear to throw away fabric. I can see the sense of multiple muslins I just can't quite bring myself to do it.

svBev, please send me your address - my email address is in my profile and I'll send you the Jilly Jean - I can't wait to see how you tame it into fitting submission.

Kbenco, the La Mia Boutique was my "subscription of shame" - a whole year's worth of magazines and so far, only a few muslins to show for it...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Circles of completion.

Hello again, everyone. I am still sewing, but it must be fit around a myriad of other activities and so I work at a snail's pace.

Many thanks to all those who chipped in for advice about how to fix my jeans. The wedgie impression was so strong that when I took the jeans off to have a shower that night, I could still feel the abrasion lingering on my flesh. A ghost wedgie!

And indeed the solution was - as everyone said - to lower the back crotch length. Lower, not scoop.

My goal at the moment is to incorporate more "circles of completion" into my life. This is a concept that is used to de-stress the complexity of modern living. It's a very simple idea: finish what you start.

Here's a small example - when you get up in the morning, make your bed as soon as you leave it. When you have breakfast, rinse your plates and cups, put them away and wipe down the bench. In other words, every small activity has a completed cycle.

A completed sewing cycle might look like this. Choose pattern and fabric. Check Pattern Review to see how it looks on a real person. Revise plan or go ahead. Fit, sew a test garment. Wear. Adjust pattern. Sew again in final fabric. Tidy sewing room. Archive pattern. Blog about it. Write PR reveiw.

Now I have to confess that I exit many many times before that cycle of completion. My two main exits are after the test garment has been sewn and worn, and before writing a PR review. Thinking about it, I even sometimes exit before putting the pattern away and tidying the sewing room!

The main reason for my exit is that I get a new and exciting piece of fabric or sewing magazine and my focus shifts onto newer more exciting territory.

In order to complete the cycle with my jeans, I need to respond to some of the comments and share a little about what I learned.

Yes, the silver top stitching on the back was a mistake. I knew it as soon as I did it, but after unpicking those jeans twice I did not have the stamina to fix it!

The full lower abdomen adjustment can be found here. It adds width and length - room for the fabric to go up and over.

Yes anyone is welcome to use/adapt my back pocket design. I'm flattered you would consider it.

How jeans fit is a matter of taste and preference. I laughed out loud when I came across an article that said jeans should fit like bras and brows - lift and separate that butt! I shudder at the thought - living in a very humid climate, to wear jeans so close to the body would create all manner of hygiene issues.

I did come across a very interesting blog post on crotch shape. Basically the Jilly Jean has a "shallow C" - and what I need is a deep "j" or the "fish hook" - Burda fit me so well because of the deeper back crotch shape. That was good to learn. You will know the shallow "c" is wrong for you if you get diagonal drag lines pointing to the inseam. (think Elephant butt).

At any rate, no pattern company is ever going to produce a patten that fits me perfectly. I do not have an average body in any part - so I have no expectations that a pattern fit me out of the packet, although it's a nice fantasy.

At any rate, I would now like to bring the Jilly Jean pattern experiment to a close - I traced and altered my pieces on separate pieces of paper, so I have a complete unaltered pattern here if anyone would like it. It is a size 12. Hip 103 cms (40.6 inches) waist 80cms (31.5). I have to warn you that if you are bigger than those measurements it would be a lot of difficult work to make it fit. Also, it requires a reasonable amount of stretch in the denim 4% elastane or above - so if you are leary about your body in stretch denim this may not be the pattern for you. Leave a comment if you would like the pattern, and if more than one person shows an interest I'll do a draw. This pattern cost me $40 to import, so I'm happy to post anywhere - what's a few more bucks on top of that!

In the meantime, here I am mid cycle on my next project: I've finished my first test garment for La Mia Boutique pattern number 733, 2011, a cowboy shirt. It's looking very promising. I'm sorry to deprive you of weeds today, but it's raining outside.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Jilly Jean's not my lover

Have you ever taken on a project that has just felt dead in your hands? That's me and the Jilly Jean from Style Arc patterns. I made a muslin ages ago, but the fabric I choose was so unreliable it told me nothing (it kept stretching and stretching).

So I made it up in a better quality denim and made some tentative adjustments. I realised I had bought one, maybe two sizes too small. In case you don't know, Style Arc patterns are traced from a sloper, so you only get to choose one size. I based my choice on the hip measurement - but I should have used my waist, which is much the larger (comparatively) of the two.

I decided my initial adjustments had been all wrong, so I unpicked the jean (because I liked the denim) and resewed it, using the Style Arc original pattern. It looked even worse!

I threw them in the bin.

A day later, I pulled them out of the bin and unpicked them again, recutting them according a pair of jeans that fit me well. Then to make up for the lack of width, I attached a 2 cm "galloon" (as Burda charmingly calls them) to the side seams on the front.

The 2 cm galloon extends the whole of the front:

Much better, wearable in fact, but still, there's a wedgie: a whisper of denim that tries to sneak its way up into the crevasse.

I'm not above unpicking and redoing the back but I don't know what to do - let fabric out, take fabric in, scoop out more, scoop out less - pants fitting is such a nightmare.

Any suggestions very welcome, if no-one knows, I'll post on Pattern Review. Those ladies know everything.

The front, after a full lower abdomen adjustment (seriously that's the official label for 'big fat tum') top tucked in for your viewing pleasure:

I am happy with the back pockets though - this is a motif I'd like to explore more.

I like the shape of this leg, the pocket bags and the way the whole thing is drafted is such a pleasure to put together. I am not in love with the fit, but then, I bought the wrong size and my denim probably isn't stretchy enough to sew as drafted.

Let's call it a draw.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

.. now in shiny.

Burda 10-2011-129, now in silk dupioni, the grandmother of silks.

This silk was for sale in Nick's - and it being cheap and silk I couldn't resist, even though I find silk dupioni tremendously difficult to use, it being so closely linked in my mind to mother-of-the-bride outfits. (especially this shade and fuchsia).

"When the student is ready, the teacher appears" so the expression goes. I was totally ready to take on the advice of the Collette sewing book which is to reduce your failure rate by working with a pattern that has proven to be successful for you and incrementally modifying it to produce a variety of garments.

This is contrary to my usual practice, which is to make a test garment, identify potential, and become distracted. This is the danger of having so much exposure to so much variety - without clarity of vision, and commitment to producing a cohesive look, it's really easy to rush on.

It's funny, that was something that was identified in my year 2 school reports - I've been doing it since I was 6!

It has taken a long time for this student to be ready.

For this variation, I added bows to the pockets. They are just lined strips with a band in the middle.

The band is constructed by zig zagging the raw edges together and then turning out.

I would like to try one more version of this skirt before retiring it. I have 2 goals for this year: to sew more of the same pattern (TNT's), and to sew more outfits (tops and bottoms specifically planned to go together.)

Although I sew things nicely, they don't always look that nice on me. At the moment, I suspect I look quite frumpy a lot of the time. Now there is something a little endearing about that aesthetic but I want to take it up a notch, so this year I'm aiming for "elegant frump."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

..something a little more sedate

Well hello again! Off the starting blocks nice and early with this number from Burdastyle magazine (10-2011-119) hot off the ship in this little part of the world.

The fabric is vintage corduroy, and I'm afraid the lovely details are lost in the whirl and swirl of activity but there is a pocket and a lovely button in there, I swear:

But here's the technical view so you can see what you are missing:

Aren't those pockets just adorable? At any rate I realised early in that I would probably be more likely to wear this skirt with boots and tights for the other 8 months of the year when things are a little cool, so I popped in a lining.

For those of you who need to see the scale of the thing altogether, the fool nerdy monty:

and a little photo of our Hebe in bloom. I am a shocking gardener, neglect and death roam our garden unchecked, so it's nice to see something survive, even thrive.

What happened to the Pastille dress, you might be asking? Well I had bad dreams about it all night, living a 41 year old's life trapped with a 21 year old's life experience and maturity. I woke up relieved to be living the life I have, despite its big challenges. I then neatly folded the pattern and put it away, at peace with my "inner mutton," quite content to be wearing less nubile garb and looking the age I am.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Awards for 2011

Well people, I simply love roundup posts and so should you because you can get a year's worth of blog reading in a single viewing. Now that's economy.

So here they are, the awards for 2011.

The "this goes straight to the pool room" award for most sophisticated item goes to this Burda sheath in Zambesi fabric

The "we're going to the circus and here's your costume" flop of the year sewing award goes to this Simplicity coat:

The "life's a bitch and so is this to sew" award goes to the Amy Butler Weekender bag:

Visible panty line (VPL) took on a whole new meaning with these jeans from Burda, bringing us the "most interesting detail" award:

The "flog the working horse" award for most worn item goes to this Ottobre top:

Award for the least satisfying to sew but most enjoyable to wear goes to this Ottobre tee "shirt".

The "most expensive never sewn from subscription award" went to La Mia Boutique for 2 muslins in 12 issues:

The "you are only as old as your fabric" award for vintage sewing went to this number from Collette patterns:

Fabric score of the year could well have gone to these $1 a metre vintage finds from a deceased estate,

...but how can you beat free! Yes, Valerie gave me some beautiful Liberty tana lawn, simply because I wanted it. So, the "if only the rest of my life could be this easy" award goes to blogger Valerie for her generosity.

Best wishes to everyone for a satisfying sewing New Year.