Monday, August 30, 2010

Something old, something new, something boring, something true.

Well, I did it. Last week, following the advice on this blog, I managed to score myself a subscription for La Mia Boutique, and thanks to this blog, I saved myself $100 US dollars by ordering direct from the publisher rather than through the only English speaking magazine site that will ship LMB to NZ. (sewers down under, make sure you choose the "Oceania" option and then you have to muddle through in Italian, I had google translate open in a separate window) Oh how that warmed the cockles of my thrifty heart!

And then once I had my reward for completing the competition I actually found some inspiration to do it.

It would be fair to say none of the pieces turned out as planned, because none of the pieces were planned. This resulted in some great disasters, some great successes and a lot of inbetween stuff. Once again, I proved to myself the 3-5-2 proportion of home sewn success to be true (3 items to love, 5 to use ambivalently, and 2 to hate.)

The 2 to hate need no introduction as I have already bemoaned them a plenty, the 3 items I really enjoy wearing are the velour coat, the green ruched top and the grey flannel pants. The rest are OK - I wear them, happily enough, but I can say about each of them, "next time I would .." which suggests a little dissatisfaction or maybe a lot of what my sister calls, "I-sewed-it-itis."

I learned lots from doing this competition. Making 10 pieces to work together is blimmin hard. I mean really hard, especially if you refuse to plan any of it. Since I relied totally on luck, and luck is a fickle friend, it's not surprising I had my share of bad luck too. However, in the end, it was trust and intuition that bought this collection to fruition since it was an unconscious longing for completion that took me to the end.

Although I have finished the competition I have decided not to enter it. Writing all the reviews and taking all the composite pictures takes more time than I want to spend. In addition, while everything goes with something in my existing wardrobe, they don't all go with each other, which is a central tenet to the competition! However, here is a photo of one complete outfit, just so you know that a lot of the things do work very well together.

Here is the top that I made to finish the competition: another round of Kwik sew 3338. Yawn, It's so boring isn't it? I twin-needled around the neck facing and hems to give a mock coverstitch look, and also to add more stretchiness. The fabric is more liquidation merino from Nicks. I wish I bought more of it. This is a really thick warm snuggly wool knit.

And lastly, look what my mother in law gifted me for my 40th. This is swiss lace, at least 60 years old, hand loomed and half a yard wide. It comes from my husband's grandparent's factory - they were clothing manufacturers. I wrote the full story about it here - and it is worth a read if you want to read something uplifting in these harsh economic times.

This fabric is so precious. Style gurus out there, what would you do with it? I have 7 metres (8 yards) but remember it is very narrow. I am thinking of having it professionally dyed and then maybe a modern jacket like Burda did Feb last year?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fabric love and fabric loathing

Simplicity 2594

Tell me, do you ever get fabric crushes? I mean, you see some fabric and you just HAVE To have it. I sometimes see fabric I fall in love with, and the fabric this top is made out of was one of those fabrics. I love the colours, and the gothic quality of the birds against a heart shaped moon.

But here's something about it I really did not love, and that was the moth holes I discovered in it after purchase. Harumph!
It's a vintage crepe - from the 40's - and although it was a 4 yard piece not all of it was usuable - that coupled with the fact that it was in a vintage width and suddenly my options narrowed right down to enough yardage for a short sleeve top!

I have since learned a lot about buying vintage fabric and here's what I can tell you (via Kay and Joy who used to run Salvage, a vintage fabric store here in Auckland):

1 Liberty and Viyella are trademarks and the fabric is usually clearly marked in the selvage with the trademark. Beware fabrics sold under these names without the branding.
2 Fabric that has been stored in moth balls stinks. The smell does not always come out either, not even after a month on the washing line.
3 Always hold vintage fabrics to the light to check for holes. Moth holes can be hard to detect, but as soon as you wash it you'll know about it.
4 Vintage fabric was milled on narrow widths (a yard or slightly bigger) - if a piece of fabric is very wide then it's probably not vintage. (my mother has just emailed to correct me that wool/tweed was milled at 54 inches - a fact I know to be true because I have some 50 year wool 54 inches wide that REEKS of moth balls and because it is a natural fibre it has absorbed the smell- see 2 above)
5 Get good at knowing a fabric by feel and follow it up with a burn test. Many vintage fabrics are synthetic or synthetic blends. Vintage or not, a cheap nasty fabric is still a cheap nasty fabric. Beware Internet sellers who can't tell you the fabric composition - do you really want to pay top dollar for polyester?

I love vintage fabrics but I've been caught out a few times by poor quality - this time at least it has a happy ending.

Are you surprised I sewed a big 4 pattern? Yeah, me too. I did use Burda construction though. I made bias strips for the armholes which is their favourite finishing method.

I used Kbenco's yoke tutorial for the machine sewn yoke. Well, almost: I did on my muslin but on the finished garment I slip stitched the final seam down. It was pretty nerve wracking rolling up the front and bottom into a 4 cm wide yoke let me tell you. (actually, mission virtually impossible, Tom Cruise I'd love to see you sew that!)

The back, perhaps you can make out the tiny yoke?

In other news I turned 40 last week, after a year of saying, "I'm in my fortieth year, 40 next birthday etc" now it's real. I got lots of lovely presents but I'm sure my regular readers will enjoy this hand made card: It reads "more coats for MAS" (my initials). I won't spell it out for non-regular readers because I want my loyal long suffering blog friends to feel smugly-in-the-know.

Speaking of coats, I tried to give away ugly trench and NOONE would take it. I almost considered taking up Ginny's double dare of making a gold top and mauve harem pants to match but that still wouldn't make me wear the trench. I put it on and my heart sinks.

There is fabric love, and then there is fabric loathing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The *phwoar* top Burda 06-2010 #139

Ok, I admit defeat - thanks to ugly jacket that doesn't go with ANY of my wardrobe items I am not going to make the deadline to finish my 10 garments.

My sister and I were discussing whether it could be saved in our weekly phone catch-up.
I suggested an outfit I thought might work with ugly trench.
"Maw maw maw you just cannot get reliable tradespeople these days."
I suggested another outfit that I thought it might work with.
"oh that was Lady Pen on the phone confirming her attendance at luncheon on Friday, the dear man at the bank got us a booking at Alfridges."
So I gave up, and suggested it might match quite well with the inside of the rubbish bin.

When the going gets tough, the wise re-evaluate their options and MOVE ON.

And what a pleasant little move on number this is.

When I saw this Burda plus size pattern I knew it was for me, but I also knew I was going to have to work hard on the pattern. For a start, when Burda says something has a "plunging neckline" you know that it must be exceedingly low. Out of curiousity I thought I'd make the muslin up in a straight 44 (with narrow neck/back alteration) to see how low it would go. I don't have a photo of it and even if I did I'd consider putting an R rating on it. Tell me, do you know who actually feels comfortable with 2 inches of cleavage on display?

It has the most adorable balloon sleeve which is created by elastic casing inside the sleeve hem.

I also perfected making my own vilene bias tape. The secret is to use top quality interfacing and a super sharp fine needle (something like a brand new 70/10, I used a microtex) and go slow. The interfacing can be light to medium weight but no heavier unless you really want cardboard in your seams. The needle has to be light and sharp so that it can easily pierce the fine weave of the interfacing without pushing it through where it can bet tangled up in the bobbin (ask me how etc). You need to sew slowly otherwise the thread tangles and breaks. All you do is cut bias strips half an inch wide of interfacing and sew a normal stitch down the middle. Then you centre the stitch of your tape over the seam line and press it into place. It stops the fabric from stretching out when you sew it and helps the garment to hold its shape. It works in a similar way to clear elastic but because it is interfacing you can attach it to areas where clear elastic might not work, such as armholes etc.

Here is mine. This is not the best quality interfacing and in time, the edges will lift. No matter, the chain stitch is now sewn into the seams so it will still hold its shape.

In our household we have nicknamed this top the "phwoar" top because just as Burda promises, "the gathered centre front seam nicely emphaiszes your feminine curves." And a few other feminine shapes as well, some of them not quite so nice. Shapewear is the order of the day, ladies.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Burda trench jacket 03-2009-114

Back details - storm flap, and belt tied at the back to pull in the back waist.

Sometimes I just don't know if a style is too old or too young until I've made it. In the case of this trench jacket, it's not that the style is too old or too young, it's the fabric. I never thought about fabric being age appropriate but this is simply too mature for my early middle years.

Despite this jacket being Not Quite Right I've got a soft spot for it: I'm fond of a little "frump" strange as it may seem. But more importantly, it is the living embodiment of my philosophy that it is a good thing for a home sewer to experiment and take risks with their sewing. It's perfectly OK to make stuff you would never dream of buying, let alone try on if you saw it in a shop - you are taking a risk with your vision.

The story of how I came by the fabric is a funny one. I got an email from my Sewing Guild buddies to say that Jane Daniels was having a fabric sale. Jane Daniels is an upmarket designer who designs for conservative older women, the type who have "investment" wardrobes. I took my son along with me and he wreaked havoc through the bolts of delicate silk and voiles. In the end I just grabbed a few things, whatever caught my eye. In amoungst the silks was this, and as soon as I lay my paw on it I thought, "this isn't silk." But no matter - at that stage my son was lying on the floor with flailing arms and legs pulling the most spectacular paddy so I just bought it. When I got home and did a burn test I was dismayed to find I'd bought polyester. Polyester in a humid climate is very very unpleasant, what's more I'd paid $20 for it - which wasn't even a bargain. It's a dense fabric with a lot of body, probably a taffeta, so I decided to cut my losses and make a jacket. I could line it with something more breathable and the stiff hand of the fabric would suit itself to a structured shape. What's more, it wouldn't be ruined in a downpour, which is a real consideration in this climate.

Still at the end of the day, this is a matriarch's jacket trench. It says to me, "maori hill/fendalton/wadestown/remuera/insert conservative-old-money-suburb-of-your-choice/ lady."

This is my free choice option for the wardrobe contest - I am limping to the finish line, determined to finish for reasons I can't even justify to myself. I can honestly say that sewing whatever you feel like produces a wardrobe that looks like you sewed whatever you felt like.

And that's OK with me too.

Details: the front gun flap, rolled sleeve, pleated pocket and mature fabric:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Branching out

burda 05-2010-109 (Please forgive crap styling and iron aversion but I am grabbing a precious free moment)

My sister and I were chatting the other day about whether we could do "tasteful" or not. We both insisted that we could, but that we found ourselves liking to edge our toe over the line into questionable territory so very much more.

I've been seeing a lot of chic sheath dresses in blogland and thought that was a safe place to start on something "tasteful". I got some navy blue cotton/wool mix fabric on sale and set about to create something.

I was glad I made a muslin because in typical Burda fashion that neckline wouldn't pass anyone's modesty meter. I raised front and back neckline 5/8 inch. Now here's something else about Burda patterns they like the princess seam to run smack bang down centre "girl" as the breast is discreetly referred to in sewing world. The big 4 have the line veer discreetly to the side of "girl" , which is much more tolerant of error. So I had to check that the line was in the correct position and that I added the right amount of FBA to both sides.

Then I wore it to the symphony on Thursday (which was the occasion that prompted the making of dull dress) and realised something very important. This dress is ALL about the bust. It's just a wide frame for the enhancement and display of splendiforous decollete.

This dress says "well heeeeeelo boys, let me introduce you to my girls." And if I had to bend over, I could do it personally.

Not for the faint hearted, this dress.