Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Otago tartan

One thing I really value is having a good laugh and what better place to start than with all the things I make?  Hence the change in title of this blog, but not focus, mind. This will always be primarily a sewing blog. Of course, I'll probably change it again at some point. We'll see how this goes, shall we? 

Today I bought the most exciting pattern. A sporan pattern. A what? You ask. Clearly you were not raised in Dunedin. We had neighbours who learned the bagpipes even...and of course the obligatory school uniforms which were always kilts. While I was in Dunedin I purchased a half metre of the Otago tartan. My sisters and I had a great old time brainstorming ideas for what to make with it, because a little of it goes a very long way.  (and no, I didn't use any colour enhancements in the editing, it really is that bilious.)
When I got back to Auckland it occurred to me that a sporan (a bag worn over the kilt) would make an excellent change purse and was small enough not to require great swathes of fabric. So I've been keeping a lazy eye out for small bag patterns and found this one today - it comes in a circular version, not shown here. As soon as I saw it I thought it had all the makings of a great sporan. 
You're all going to be SO jealous.

Favourite Things Pattern Design number 065 

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Making progress

Thank you for leaving comments - it's lovely to know that these posts don't just disappear into oblivion. (ah yes, family and friends you are not oblivion but you know what I mean). 

I am making progress on the sewing room. You can see the new colour coming up around the door. Now here's a funny thing: I planned to use a completely different colour - one that we used in another part of the house. You know the rules: no more than 3 colours in the house otherwise the place doesn't cohere as you walk from room to room.

But the minute I started painting the edges I knew it was wrong. "The room doesn't want to be painted this colour," I said to TMB. He rolled his eyes - that from him who takes horoscopes seriously. 

What to do? We had the paint, we had the energy, we had a sleeping baby. I plugged on for another hour but it just felt wrong. In the end I realised what was wrong - I did, in fact, have a vision for how I wanted the room to look and that colour did not promote the mood of that vision.

The colour I had in mind is the colour of my blog: soothing and refreshing green. There was nothing for it but to go to the paint shop. I went in, took a look at the thousands of greens and within 10 seconds found the shade I could see in my mind. I bought the paint, came home and started re-doing the edges. 

Honestly you could hear the walls sighing with relief.  

It was an important lesson for me in trusting my instinct. So often with sewing something I have a bad feeling about some aspect of the design or fabric and I am usually right. I think I need to take more time to find projects I feel excited about, to work with instinct more and intellect less.  

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pet loves

As the year draws to a close I find myself reminiscing on my pet blogging loves this year. 

1) Aussie Sewing Blogs / Kiwi craft blogs.

What a lot of beautiful creative stuff I have seen this year.  Of course there are lots of beautiful blogs from everywhere but the ingenuity of the kiwi craft sites always impresses. Likewise (and I will say this only once), the Aussie sewing blogs have been terrific.  What's the chances of finding a sewing blog of someone who has the same size, figure, colouring and taste? None. So I just read sewing blogs that capture my imagination in some way, and a surprising number have been from over the ditch. 

2) Beautiful photography on blogs.

Sometimes I feel like a broken record. I feel compelled to leave messages that say "lovely photograph."  over and over - cause it really is.

3) High drama on blogs

Don't you love walking in on a spat? My favourite this year was the person who left a comment on a very worthy seamstress' blog, "don't take this the wrong way, but your English isn't good enough to be home-schooling your kids." Tell me please, is there a right way to take that?

4) Wadder revellery.

I love it when people make awful stuff.  I call it "craft flop schadenfreude" and what a thrill I get to see other people's bin liners.  But only if the people usually make beautiful stuff, mind. It would be a bit sad if it was always just the occasional reminder of humanity, the comraderie of knowing other people struggle too.

5) Pattern Review

not really a blog but a great big website full of people who can talk fabric and seam allowances till the cows come home. After a while some interesting characters emerge, like the guy who sews for his wife. He makes her shirt dresses and smocks and patch worked tea cosies and  and table mats. But he will never discuss her size or alterations, "a gentleman never tells."

6) Understanding the 3-5-2 rule applies to nearly everyone

Whether sewing or purchasing, a third of your clothes you will hate (trousers that need hitching up, cross over tops that pop open etc)  half you will tolerate (colour and fit ok, but no spark) and a fifth you will love and feel so good in.   

7) Ditching the stat counter. 

The best blogging moment I had this year was when I no longer cared whether anyone was reading my blog or not. As far as I am aware, just a few friends and family members are reading this. 

Hi guys! 

Friday, December 26, 2008

I hope there's an after

This is my sewing room. The 'before' shot.  I once worked with a woman who did a PHD and her thesis was on "the psychological moment". That is the moment when it is time to face something. The stars come into alignment, the energy is up, it's time to act.  

I really feel energised to get this room sorted. I can never find what I'm looking for. Looking for anything means delving through a lot of mess. I can't use my little free time effectively because the visual clutter wears me out before I've even begun. But I really feel ready to tackle this. The psychological moment has arrived. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vogue 1051 for lazy people

Back welt pockets. Look like sly eyes, don't they?

The famous "Alice + Olivia" pant much loved on Pattern Review. One of Vogue's "average" patterns that reads much better in the french : "moins facile". Oh yes it's less easy all right. You know how much less easy? 64 steps less easy.

I knew immediately I was not going to be making all 64 steps first time on a pant. Pants are just too unpredictable. I've been down this path before. Loving crafted fly shields and what not only to have the lot sag and bag because I didn't tape the waist.

So I was not embarking on a 64 step muslin. No siree. But here's the lazy way. Throw out fly shield and draft on a front extension.Front pockets? Gone. My front storage is built-in thank you, and there is plenty of it. Back pockets. Oh I suppose so. Can't really call it the Alice and Olivia pant if I don't employ at least one of the details.  

Besides, I have a "flat dierriere"  (honestly that is the quaint name given to it by fit experts .. not complaining, beats "saggy arse") and it could do with a little spicing up. 

So here's my muslin. I'm likin' them despite being a little big. I had another "ah ha" moment. Maybe I am making my trousers a size too big? There's a lot of bagging, but it could be my fabric choice and a heavy hand with the alterations for a big tum. I am paranoid about making them too small, tis my problem. Nothing looks worse than the saveloy effect, aka "muffin tin."  

I also choose a fabric with a little stretch and disobeyed the instructions about cutting the facings on the warp of the fabric because the stretch only ran through the weft. I have been duly punished. It is sagging through the waist. 

Still, I love the concept of them so I'm going to make them again, only smaller, and only 32 steps. 

Happy holidays everyone. 

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Embracing my inner doily

It is clear from the consistency in my pattern choices that I am drawn towards nanna chic in all its outmoded glory.  I cannot fight my predilection towards all that is dated and fogeyed. Therefore I have decided to embrace my inner doily. 

I hope you can see the topstitching in this skirt (mccalls 5429). I used a topstitching needle, thread, foot, stitch length and had a grand old time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The three ages of skirt

The skirt I am currently making (mccall's 5429), and top stitching with pride, is one from a pattern which I call the the three ages of skirt. They are all denim skirts: a mini for youth, a middly for further on the lifecyle, and a maxi for the later years. 

In typical kiwi style I refer to them as lamb, mutton and hogget. I am making "mutton."  It's full length, with a bit of flirt at the bottom to balance up the waist which has thickened, but not yet disappeared. 

I had to consult on the wisdom of this pattern choice and I have been affirmed by my neighbour Jenni-from-across-the-road that it is not too exclusive bretheren-like. "It may cover the ankles" she said, "but there's some gaiety in the fullness and joy in the abundance of topstitching." Yes, all too frivilous for that particular religious sect.

Still, I admit to some reluctance in its construction. I had to go out and buy a topstitching needle and that was an afternoon's work with baby in tow.  I have also had a growth of some description removed from my arm and it is still sore, making sewing difficult. But mostly it's a lack of enthusiasm for the project itself. I think I have out-nanna-ed myself on this one: I have a sinking suspicion that I am going to look like mutton dressed as hogget.  

When I apply the acid test, 'if you saw this garment on the racks of a shop, would you ask to try it on?" I am not convinced of my answer. 

I am making very, very slow progress.

line art for M5429

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Confessions of a keen home sewer.

There are several words to describe the person who recreationally sews. There's sewer. That's me. I like the ambiguity: that it is also the word for a pipe which carries effluent.

There's sewist. I hate that word. I thought it was an irrational dislike until I explored its suffix family : therapist, dentist, specialist, radiologist, cardiologist, oncologist, chemist, pharmacist. There we go - an unhealthy association with illness. 

I have also read blogs where people refer to themselves as a "sewing hobbyist." That's kind of cute, but a little long off the tongue.

There's another word "seamstress." This has an altogether more glamorous word family: adulteress, mistress, seductress. If Nigella Lawson sewed, she'd be a seamstress.

Anyway this keen home sewer is on to her next project. A summer weight full length denim skirt. I've been itchin' for some top stichin' and this will be my ride.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Party pieces.

If you are at all looking for a party piece of jewellery to break the ice at your next social gathering may I recommend to you a knitted licorice-allsorts necklace?  

I have got to say, Dunedin is one cracker of a city. I don't know where else you would find such a treasure in the souvenir shop.

Here are the pants - this has got to be the fastest ever trouser pattern (Burda 7835). I cut it out the night I got back and sewed it in a Benjy sleep. That fast. 

Of course, I made a few alterations to achieve a reasonable fit and of course, after a couple of hours wearing they have bagged and sagged out a size. I hate loose weave fabrics. You never know how far they are going to stretch. It's like my trip to the doctor this morning. She's always late, but how late? So I always go on time, just in case. Today she was 40 minutes late. My trousers are the equivalent annoyance factor too big.

Sigh. That's why we have belts I guess.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

pocket candy

I have found something to sex up the pockets of my arranged pant. I purchased this cute iron-on wood block of native bird in native tree to adorn my back left cheek. You can see the fabric onto which it will be sewn in the background. Porridge linen, which I believe would be apocryphal if were peanut butter sandwich linen, or wheety linen.

I bought a few other delights back from Dunedin with me. If you read my sister's blog (Miss Smith at home) you will know the sad reason for our trip, but there were compensations. Like 2 days of child free shopping in between hospital visits. 

Unless you actually live in your hometown it's a little surreal going back. I was unsure what to pack. Is it really as cold as I
remembered? Surely I am overreacting by packing a full length woolen coat, this late in the year. I arrived first thing in the morning and although the air was fresh it wasn't overly cool and I chided myself for my over-reaction. 

Until the afternoon,when it clouded over. Suddenly it seemed very crisp indeed and I resurrected my favourite childhood habit of going to bed fully clothed, minus the shoes - my one concession to adult-hood being that I took off my coat first.

When I arrived back in Auckland, the first thing I noticed as I stepped out of the terminal was not so much the warmth but that I no longer felt cold and I removed the coat, which had almost become hermetically sealed to my body.

It was nice to have a break from sewing and I think part of the reason I sew so much these days is that it gives me a tiny little bit of head space every day.  But now I am back to life at home with a cute lovable demanding toddler (is there any other kind?) and carving out a minute or two to sew one seam at a time. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The "arranged" pant

Do you know what my biggest sewing issue is? 

It's not fit. It's not construction. It's taste. At least a quarter of all things I make never get an outing. They are simply too awful to wear.

One of the reasons I love Pattern Review is there is plenty of visual evidence to suggest I am not alone. 

That's why I like rules. Do you get the feeling that Trinny and Susannah are not naturally stylish? I get the feeling that they have their look and a set of rules and it's all pretty much style by numbers. Works though. They do look great. 

So I'm having a go at style by numbers. No more falling in love with patterns and fabrics. I am going to have the equivalent of the arranged marriage for sewers: choice by compatibility and suitability.

These linen trousers (Burda 7835) I am planning are case in point. I am going to make the view without the little sausage casing at the bottom and in beige. Their porridge like colour will be compatible with little grabbing weetbix fingers. Their high waist will stop unpleasant peaks at grubby underwear. The rules are bootleg cut to balance narrow shoulders. It's an easy pattern and should come together quite quickly. And linen will be cool in what is promising to be a stinking hot summer.

Ticks all the boxes, except passion. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

New look for an old bird

You asked for fierce, Tyra. (thank you Miss Smith) 

Me and my photographer have a little difficulty getting our shot. He takes one, I have a look at it and say, "no no, look, you can see my double chin." He takes another one, and I say, "no, no  it has to be full length so they can see the proportions."  He takes another one and I say, "but I look so fierce." And then he refuses to take any more photos.

Anyway, here is another dress for Dressember. It is very 1950's housewife, no?

It has little pleats around the neck line and an adorable cap sleeve. It has no zipper, no facings. How easy is that? And the little matching belt reminds me of kinder days, when I had a waist.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

When I left work, my explicit instructions were, "if you do a whip round, please donate the money to Oxfam." Why? Because it used to be my job to organise the leaving presents and get staff to sign cards.

It was always a desultory affair: there's a certain inertia that goes with farewell gifts and cards - people empty out their change purses and write "all the best," even when the person is generally well liked and respected.   (to put this in context, we have had wave after wave of redundancies .. not kidding, about 10 rounds since I've been there) 

I really wanted to avoid that kind of platitudinous limp-wristed aliminium-hand shake. Let a village in Africa have a goat, I thought. 

So what happened?  This week I got these flowers delivered, with a farewell card, with all the best (x5)  and a $20 gift voucher.  
Aaah!  Nice flowers though. And here's an arrangement of my own. I love the way the sun catches the cobwebs. 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mini dress

Ok .. so I finished my dress. Hmmmmmmmmm... I don't often say this but I think the style is too young for me. I've only just now realised the pattern describes itself as "mini dress."  

When I made it as a muslin I made the tunic length and wore it over jeans. It's perfect for that. Tim Gunn would approve of the proportions. But over leggings.. it just doesn't work. 

Too bad. It's too hot and this mutton is going a lambin'. 

For my next dress, believe it or not, I am thinking of going back to the shirt dress. I'm sure it can be made to work. The kiss of death was the polycotton and welt pockets. If you are thinking of making something retro ironic and make this pattern please do not even think about putting those pockets in. They just say, "doctor, her BP is 180/100." 

This time, I've got some genuine retro shirt fabric and no-one is going to mistake me for a nurse. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I missed Froctober and Sewtember, but I'm on track to get my dress finished for Dressember. I am making view E of Newlook 6727.

I actually sewed a muslin for this one. It was even reasonably successful. I have a much higher success rate these days after I changed my definition of success: I now consider it successful if I wear it once. 

You know what it's like when you've had a baby.. it's 4 dress sizes in a year. Pregnancy, birth, lactation.. they all change bibs and bo(o)bs up and down. Well, mainly up, truth be told. But a little down again now. Try fitting a dress under those circumstances! 

My muslin is now too big, having fit it several months ago. I'm quite pleased I've got a reason to ditch it actually, because I made it in polyester, which is a very cruel fabric in a humid climate. 

Do you know what really appeals about this dress? It's designed to wear leggings underneath. That way, when I'm a little lax with the wax and fake bake no-one will know. 

Leggings are the "grooming shy" woman's friend.