Monday, 25 March 2013

Lace! Stripes!

Life can be a struggle. You're doing your best, trying not to add unnecessarily to your stash, and innocently pop into your local awesome fabric shop for a pink invisible zip. You try hard not to look at the bargain tables placed RIGHT AT THE FRONT DOOR, and try hard to dull the thud of your sudden elevated heart rate when you spot (for $2/m) navy and white striped stretch lace. The rational part of your brain says 'What on earth would you sew with that? Since when do you like lace? Since when have you sewn with lace?' and the addict part of your brain (the limbic system if you'd like to know) lights up like fireworks and says 'Oh! Stretch striped lace! Carrie Bradshaw! Paris! $2/m! A skirt! We have a pattern!'.


In defence of the pose, this was approximately number 34 in my self portrait attempts.....
I resisted, but then caved. In about 30 seconds I could already see it as a skirt gathered on a waist band. I used one of the patterns out of Sew U Home Stretch - the dress pattern gathered onto a waistband, omitting the bodice of the dress. It's such a clever book - 4 basic patterns, endless variations. I made the waistband twice as wide as the pattern suggested, and used a medium for the skirt to make it nice and full, and a size x-small waistband (its not as tight as I'd like but the lace doesn't have enough stretch to get over my hips or bust - if I wanted it tighter I'd have to put some elastic in the waistband to cinch it in). I lined it in a very pale green linen-viscose stretch lining, from the same store Darn Cheap Fabrics - only because it was the lightest non-synthetic stretch lining they had at the time. The pattern suggests gathering the skirt in the traditional way with parallel lines of basting stitches, but I struggled to get it even, and ended up doing one round of shirring elastic which worked perfectly. The lace was surprisingly easy to work with - I suspect it is something synthetic, and just used a combination of the stretch stitches on my machine to make it all up and hem it. I didn't hem the lining - it's almost impossible to see that its green because the lace pattern is quite thick.

Did I need it? No. Do I care? No. Do I love it? Oh yes!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Finished project - New Look 6000

So the hot pink New Look 6000 is finished, worn and generally considered to be a success story.


I wish I could say it was a breeze but it wasn't as easy as I was hoping, and I was very much not having fun by the end of it - a combination of the fashion fabric fraying like an SOB and having a looming deadline......

The lining was quite easy - I followed the fabulous Colette Patterns tip by using a spray starch to stiffen my super slippery silk lining before cutting and sewing - it made it nice and crunchy, almost like organza, and washed out a treat. Its hard to tell from the pics but hopefully the soft drape of the 'washed' after shot is more obvious:

Before washing spray starch
After washing spray starch

I didn't do a test before I used it because I didn't have time, and I figured the lining wasn't that big a deal anyway if it was a little marked. I whipped it up in no time, french seams to stop fraying, and just did a normal split in the back - venting the lining properly was a bit beyond my skills/time frame and Connie of my awesome lining book promised me that would be just fine! I used the lining as a confirmation that my muslin changes were pretty good.

The fashion fabric was very loosely woven, from quite thick fibres, and so needed every seam to be finished, despite my planning to line the dress. My seam binding has not arrived from the States yet, so I decided I would do a clean seam finish, where the edges are turned under after the seam is sewn, and sewn again. I tried it on the shoulder seams to start with and even still had whiskery bits poking out, so made the decision to french seam the side seams. MISTAKE! I knew the fabric was probably a little bulky for frenchies, but was a bit desperate with the fraying situation (if I hadn't stay stitched the  neckline it would have just evaporated away!) but I didn't think about the extra fabric that would be used up in the 'turn' of the seams - when done twice in a french seam it used up about 2/8 inch on each side seam, which meant a total of a 1/2 inch - ease I couldn't afford to lose in this snug number. And of course this fabric does NOT cope well with seam ripping. Once I realised it was too late - I'd already trimmed the seam allowance. The only other thing I could have done, which again was too late, was to have a smaller seam allowance in the centre back. But I'd already inserted the zip (and struggled!) and wasn't doing it again. So it was pretty damn snug under my boobs again, to the point where I couldn't fully inflate my lungs. But it was wearable, and I could dance and eat in it, so that was the main thing!

The other stupid mistake I made that completely pissed me off was making the neckline facing out the fashion fabric. It was too bulky and kept popping out the top of the dress, and by the time I realised it was too late to unpick it as the neckline of the dress was slowly drifting around my house, thread by thread. Understitiching made it worse and in the end I had to top stitch it down. Amazingly the advice of my beloved and his mate worked  - 'Just wear a necklace or scarf over it - no-one will notice'!

I bound the arm seams in bias binding, to prevent fraying and attach the lining - I'm not sure if this is the right thing to do and it probably added a little too much bulk but by then (48hrs before wedding) I was so completely over it I didn't give a s**t. I had the epiphany that no-one would be looking at either my neck line or sleeve attachments (thanks to my mega tight bodice any interested eye would be diverted south). I'm never going to make something for an important event without allowing ample time. I put myself under too much pressure and by the end I wasn't having fun and was becoming sloppy with my work - not a good combo.

What crappy neckline?? Look at my bosom instead!

OK seam finish

So after all that bitching was I happy with the dress? In the end, yes I was. I changed the vent to an inverted kick pleat to make lining it easier - and I think it gave it a gorgeous vintage touch. Its really easy to do, and made the lining split really easy too. I think every skirt or dress I make that calls for a split or vent will get this treatment especially if lined.

I also loved the sleeves - I finished the cuff and sleeve edges in bias binding too, because for some reason my cuffs were a little short (maybe I traced the wrong size) and so the raw edge had to be hidden (even if it wasn't going to fray like hell). I also put 2 buttons on each cuff - I think the pattern only asks for one on each but that would have meant seeing the spot where the one button was sewn. I attached them back to back. I'm assuming that if one rotated the cuff placement around 90 degrees so the edges were to the back you could just use one button on the outside edge - maybe thats they way they were meant to be and I stuffed up! I also added a couple of inches to the length and finished the hem with a piece of the silk lining cut off the selvedge to reduce bulk at the hem.

And my new gorgeous shoes - loved them!

Next up - I think I need some nice detoxing knits..... no fitting, no zips, just stretchy stretchy goodness...

Monday, 11 March 2013

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Work in progress - New Look 6000

I'm so pleased with my current WIP - New Look 6000. This hot little number won't be new to the sewing blogosphere - its very well known for its awesome figure hugging 60's silhouette. From most of the posts/reviews I have read it seems to be a very easy pattern, with few fitting issues provided one accurately cuts for bust, waist and hips.

I'm making this dress for a friends wedding next weekend (only a little pressure, but I am staring down the barrel of a long weekend right now). Hopefully I finish it and hopefully this awful heatwave we are having will be over by then! I am making View E with a couple of little minor tweaks - the sleeve head on views A and D have a very sweet little tuck rather than a gathered/eased sleeve head so I will do that instead of the sleeve head on view E. Also I am considering turning the vent into a kick pleat or inverted pleat, because I intend to line the dress and I'm not sure how to do the lining. My awesome ebook on linings I mentioned in a prior post will no doubt help me. I suppose I could just line to the top of the vent - I'm not sure what to do. Any advice would be very welcome!

I'm making the dress in the most delicious fabric - definitely in the top 5 of delicious fabrics currently residing in my stash (maybe even the top 3!). It is a cotton/silk/poly blend I found at The Fabric Store, in Fitzroy, in the most glorious Bollywood pink. It's hard to describe the weight - it's lightweight but dense at the same time, and lightly textured with the design woven into the fabric, maybe a lightweight brocade would be the right description? Anyway I think its a miracle fabric because it doesn't crush and here's hoping it doesn't fray......

Will look beautiful with my new maroon bow heels! 

So lush and pink and DIVINE!

It was $38/m but I was lucky to snaffle it in their post Christmas sales for 30% off! Whoohoo! I'll be lining it in a matching fuscia silk lining from Darn Cheap, in Heidelberg, which was a very reasonable $13.95/m. I'm very lucky to have Darn Cheap pretty much at the end of my street - silk linings for $13.95/m! Why would I have anything else at that price?? I'm going to use a tip from the Colette Sewing Handbook and have sprayed the silk lining with starch spray - at the moment it looks terribly poxy but once I have cut it and made it up to the point of attaching it to the main garment I'll handwash it and hopefully it will be lovely and slinky again! I've also ordered some rayon seam binding off Ebay from the States. I've not been able to source it anywhere in Australia and was even told in one fabric store I went to (very condescendingly) that what I wanted was bias binding, and rayon seam binding didn't even exist! So I hope it arrives in time to finish the seams as I'd love it to be as snazzily finished as possible!

I'm really pleased with my muslin - ONE VERSION! Oh the bliss. Based on my measurements I cut an 8 bust, 10 waist and 12 hips. This sounds easier than it was - this pattern has SO MANY pages and rather inconveniently they have divided the sizing into 4-6-8 on one piece and 10-12-14 on the next. I have no idea how I'm going to get the pattern back in the envelope - that bad boy has exploded!


It turns out the 8 bust was just a bit snug - very figure hugging and sexy (M loved it!) but I couldn't expand my lungs properly so I let out the side seams by 3/8 inch and was much happier. I just love the  lower dart placement - so flattering.

I was expecting a couple of fitting issues after the Peony and unsurprisingly I had neck gapage at the front and back, and excess fabric in my lower back. I'm not sure what the neck line gapage means - maybe I have narrow shoulders? Anyway the Peony experience was such a great learning experience - it didn't take long for me to add some shoulder darts, transfer the neck gapage into the side bust dart on my front pattern piece and adjust the back piece for a sway back. I also added the extra 3/8 inch to the top of the side seams because I want to do french seams on the silk lining, and needed the extra seam allowance (and also it would have stuffed up the armscye - don't muck around with sleeves unless you know what you're doing people).

I put my muslin sleeve in wrong the first time and was a bit devo with the crappy outcome, but then I remembered I'd added the extra room starting at the top of the side seam AND not sewn my ease stitching in the correct spot so after I corrected those errors I was fairly happy with it. There is the tiniest diagonal wrinkle from the top of my bust, and I don't know what that means - if its too small or too big. It's comfortable (unlike the horror of the Peony sleeves) and there was a timely post on A Fashionable Stitch today about the difficulty of a truly perfect fit especially for the home seamstress, so I think I will chill out and ignore it. I've closely scrutinised many of the other 6000's out there and most ladies have a little wrinkle in the same spot, plus my crazy sea urchin muslin fabric is quite crisp, and maybe my lovely softer poppy fabric will be a little more conforming.

Its not so bad.....

Ooh sexy post dinner belly
 The muslin was so quick to whip up - hopefully I get most of the construction done in the next couple of days. Tomorrow I'll start on the lining, and use it as a bit of a 2nd muslin to make sure my pattern alterations are ok. Fingers crossed! :)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Random thoughts/rants on fashion plus gifts to self

I've really only been trying proper garment sewing now for the last 6-8 months or so. Prior to that I loved to have a bit of a shop, and when I was in my 20's I was a complete 'stuffaholic/shopaholic'. As I've gotten older I've become a lot pickier about the quality and quantity of my choices - certainly acquiring a mortgage helped with that, but I think I just got sick of having too much 'stuff' that I just didn't need - I came to the realisation that more stuff does not equal happiness. This attitude has influenced all non-essential purchasing aspects of my life from housey things, through to clothing (except fabric purchases - eek!). I've written before about my love of Savers, a massive op shop chain, where absolute diamonds-in-the-rough can be found on a daily basis. Last year we did 'Buy nothing new' month, in October, which was a really interesting exercise - you try to buy nothing brand new - except essentials like food, medicines and underwear! I spent a fair bit of time at Savers that month!

Anyway, I realised the other day that apart from shoes and underwear, the only brand new item of clothing I had bought since about May last year was a pair of skinny pink cords (which I LOVE and have worn to death) but otherwise I have made all my own clothing or acquired it secondhand until last week. Of course I have bought craaazy amounts of fabric, but most of the time it has a future planned for it! I've found the last few times I've been shopping I've seen things I love the style and design of but now I have a much better understanding of how garments are constructed, and the hours and effort that go into them, I look at RTW clothing a lot more closely. I'm disgusted by the poor quality of some of the higher end chain stores (or high street stores if you reside in the British Isles!) - items where the grain of the fabric is not straight COMPLETELY does my head in (earlier last year I bought some fine pinwale cords from Witchery and realised too late that one leg was cut off grain - the seam ends up almost on the front of my leg. How the HELL can you not cut corduroy on the grain??!!). I've seen cheap wrinkly fabric made up into $80 shorts, and stitching coming unravelled on $90 t-shirts.  On the flip-side I'm also horrified by the knowledge that the person who made it probably will receive a couple of dollars at the most for making that garment, and the reason it is cut off grain is because they are probably punished for fabric wastage.

So lately, for me, clothing shopping hasn't been quite as fun as it used to be. Shoe shopping has though - no problems there! :). But last week I did treat myself to a super cute pair of grey jeans printed with black polka dots which I completely LOVE, from Country Road. (It was nice to find something special and not immediately start thinking 'pfff I could make that...').

Yesterday I met my mum in the city for a bit of a browse for some shoes for my friend's wedding, and a look at some high end fabric shops. I have this tiny idea that I may be able to make my own wedding dress - I'm not planning a white princess wedding, and there's so many great patterns for dresses out there that it may be an option. I'm under no illusions though that I'm anywhere good enough yet for that, and if I find something RTW that I am happy with I'll certainly buy something off the rack. So we had a little wander around the shops, and I ended up trying on a few things. It will be winter, mid July, and I get so cold, so I am thinking something with sleeves, but short (as in below the knee not to the floor). We looked at some of the designer garments in the big department stores, and I was fairly shocked to see the state of some of the garments of a very well known Australian designer known for particularly pretty dresses. These dresses started at a minimum of about $1300-1400 and at least 3 that I saw had belt loops coming loose and loose threads. They are made in Australia, and presumably not in sweat shops. I couldn't believe that the quality control could be so poor that something as basic as a belt loop would not stay attached. I know that they must get tried on quite often, but then any item of clothing is presumably going to get worn repeatedly, and should be designed and constructed with that in mind.

I was dying to check out Tessutis, but in the end I only made it to Clegs (disappointing). Next time......

I did find some divine little heels from Nine West which are just perfect for my friends wedding:

Maroon patent leather with a very civilised little kitten heel and gorgeous bow! So very cute! Such a nice present to self.

And then at the end of the day I came home to find another little present to self - a little stash of books of a pleasingly wide variety....

'Sew U Home Stretch' by Wendy Mullin
My mum has this, and I did my best to 'borrow' it for a very long time but felt guilty and couldn't bring myself to use any of her patterns. Its a great book, and has very clever ideas and tips on adapting a single basic knit patterns like a t-shirt or hoodie - I'm very keen to try the t-shirt to boat-neck conversion. Its a great book for those interested in learning to sew knits - my only slight criticism is that its a little overlocker/serger heavy, but to be fair it does have a reasonable amount of info for sewing with a regular sewing machine.

'Overdressed' by Elizabeth Cline
This title won't be new to anyone who regularly dips into the sewing blogosphere as it has been much talked about recently, but for those who don't it is an expose on the world of 'fast fashion'. No doubt it'll get me even higher up on my soap box!

And finally this very pretty little hipster knitting book - I've only had a little flick through, and already I can tell it will be a joy just to look at - I can't wait to try some of the handwarmers on the cover. Some of the projects are just gorgeous.

Monday, 4 March 2013

'Put a bird on it' Peony

Being stubborn and reasonably happy with my final sleeveless Peony bodice I decided I had to have a crack at it with some pretty fabric, and I had already bought this awesome lightweight cotton printed with beautiful toucans, flamingos, pelicans and parrots from my local fabric store. I'd had my eye on it for ages, but decided that without a dedicated purpose I couldn't justify a purposeless addition to my stash. Then I was out with my beloved one night and we saw a hipster in a pub wearing an awesome 60's style frock printed in flamingos. We both loved it, and after he said 'You should make something like that' I felt I had free reign, nay a DIRECT ORDER to snap up my birdie print. I thought it would make a great sleeveless Peony, and decided it would be an ideal final test run before I cut into my super special long sleeve future Peony (now future New Look 6000) fabric.

And you know, after all those hours and millions of muslins and metres of aqua poplin,  I'm just so happy with it!

I knew I'd either have to line it, or underline it because the fabric was very light. I decided to line it, only because at the time of cutting it out I didn't have anything suitable to underline with, and was impatient to get cracking. I ended up lining it in a lovely fine cream cotton that really made the fabric colours pop.  This is the first time I've made a fitted lined dress, and I used the instructions in the book Easy Guide to Sewing Linings by Connie Long, which has been recommended both on the Colette Patterns blog, and by Sunny on A Fashionable Stitch. It is a great book, and even better I was able to purchase it as an eBook and save it on my iPad (which I use constantly when sewing) for the bargain price of about $14 AUD here. On Amazon, even secondhand it's about $90! SCORE! I can't tell you how useful it is - instructions on how to draft linings for all sorts of garments, attaching to zips, easy versions and more advanced versions. Its such great value for money!

I went with the 'easy' or 'quick' lining option, where one makes a full 2nd version of the dress in a lining fabric, the facings are turned under 5mm at the non-seam edge, and basted to the lining at the neckline, and then topstitched to the lining at the non-seam edge. This avoids the need to interface the facings and alter the neckline of the lining. It does add a little bit of bulk at the shoulder seams, but with two very fine fabrics it was ok. To finish the armholes I machine basted the two layers together, then used some vintage pink bias binding I had in my stash. I don't know what it is made of, it is quite coarsely woven - hopefully it won't shrink but is easily replaced if it doesn't do well.

I chose to hand sew the lining to the zip, just because I was a moron and had already stuffed around with the zip too much to risk stuffing it up with the lining. I'd been unable to find a 44 inch zip, in either pale blue or pink, and so bought a smaller one. I'd read somewhere that fitting issues around the lower back can be reduced with using the smallest possible zip (so the end of the zip doesn't create bulk over the lower back or bum) and in my impatience bought a smaller one. After installing it PERFECTLY (truly BEST invisible zip insertion EVER) I realised the dress wouldn't get over either my boobs or bum. So out it came, and off I went to another fabric shop to get my full length zip. I've had a problem a couple of times installing zips where they don't quite line up properly when stitched in which is most obvious if the zip crosses a seam line (such as the waistband seam on my recent Iris shorts, or the waist seam of this dress). For some reason the first time I put the longer zip in I was nearly 1cm out at the waist seam when the zip was done up. Obviously there was more ease on one side than the other when I was sewing the separate sides. So now what I do is install one side, and if there is a seam somewhere along the zip I mark the matching point on the zip and start my pinning at that seam rather than the top or bottom. This way the seams match when the zip is closed. So my lovely hand sewn lining:

I'm pretty happy with the fit - it still somehow gapes a bit at the back neckline, but I just don't know what else I could have done to get rid of this - maybe somehow narrow the back bodice or transfer it into the waistline dart? Meh. I'm over trying to perfect the fit of this bodice. Views without belt:

The back looks better than that when I'm moving around, especially with the belt. I'm happy enough with it that if the day of my friend's wedding is stinking hot (and in Victoria mid-March this is a distinct possibility) I would be happy to wear it to the wedding. We were having a lazy Sunday, and my love M was so impressed with my finished dress (after seeing the hideous WIPS of the bodice) that we decided it deserved a proper dressed up photoshoot and I thought it was the perfect time to try a beehive bouffant hairdo and some 60's-ish makeup. I followed this tutorial on YouTube but found my hair was a bit too oily to tease up super high - but I was pretty happy as a first time test run. I'd love to have hair as high as Patsy on Ab Fab.

And then I found my novelty cats-eye glasses, left over from my 30th birthday party and couldn't resist a pose:

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Another pair of Iris shorts, to soothe my nerves....

Before I continued on my dress mission I needed a little sewing pick me up, something easy, that I knew would work, and that filled a gap in my wardrobe - some neutral denim shorts. I had found a lovely indigo lightweight denim at Rathdowne Remnants a few weeks ago, whilst on a Tour de Fabric with my mum, and had cut them out on holidays, ready to whip up a pair of Colette Iris shorts when I had a free hour or two. This is a great pattern - if you make the pockets and facings out of some cute stash leftovers (which I would recommend especially if the main fabric is heavier, like denim) the pattern uses less than a metre of fabric. I reckon I'll have enough left over for a little skirt.... Anyhoo, the Finished Object:

I was happy with the fit of my wearable muslin pair, and cut a Colette size 8 with an extra inch of length for a decent hem, but didn't want these to have the button pocket closure.  I knew the pockets would gape if there weren't buttons, so I chose to sew those seams without pockets, and just put one pocket in the side seam without the zip. I also altered the pocket piece slightly, extending it upwards so it caught in the waistband seam as I find the original pocket pieces do flop about a little bit. I made the pockets and the facings out of a gorgeous linen cotton floral print I'd been selfishly hanging onto in my stash (numerous times I'd had it out to turn into a gift of some sort, and put it back, too in love to share!).

And the final touch was to add one of my little labels, because despite having a tertiary degree I still managed to put these on backwards. Twice.

There may be enough summer left in Melbourne to squeeze out one more pair, maybe in a polka dot, but for now these will do - I have more important fish to fry.......