Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A Liberty Laurel

Despite the best efforts of the cat I was able to whip up my final Laurel (for now) for the Colette competition just in time for the contest.

The Tilster - on my pattern, on my ironed fabric, next to the 60 euro cat bed she refuses to sleep in.....
I reckon I could make this little number up in my sleep now but its time for me and Laurel to have a little break from each other. I'll try to keep it brief.....



  • Divine Liberty wool-cotton blend from my stash, present to self last birthday - this fabric is awesome - texture, quality, print - it rocks. From a distance it looks like a little floral but up close is (to paraphrase my brother when he saw it) very Jackson Pollock - the spatter design is a gorgeous combination of black, purple, blue and neon pink-orange. The neckline is bound in a black cotton-silk left over from the stash.

  • Version ...... can't remember - dress, with bell cuffs on sleeves, no pockets or other embellishments. I love the cuffs. LOVE them.
  • Lined in a cream and pale blue slinky stripy rayon (I think - it didn't smell like polyester when I set fire to it) from the stash. The lining was actually my very very first muslin - pat on the back for forward thinking Sarah!

  • Seams and hem bound in a lovely purple rayon hem tape that I found on Ebay - I've not been able to get this anywhere in Australia, and ended up getting 3 rolls from a NY based seller for about $35 posted. If anyone is interested I can find the link for you....
  • Alterations - left the zip out - was able to shimmy in and out of it ok, bust darts moved as per my previous version. 
  • I am really REALLY happy with my sleeve setting. I think I have hit upon the winning combination of techniques (for me at least) - 1 row of gathering stitches, NOT extra long, but a normal 2.5mm length with the top tension reduced right down - the right side of the fabric has the top thread and the wrong side has the bobbin thread. I then gathered the bobbin thread to ease it all up, pinned and hand basted (hand basting is TOTALLY the secret of a good sleeve insertion) then sewed those bad boys in. I also gave it all a good steam before sewing it in - apparently this can shrink it a bit but who knows if that worked. All I know is they are totally awesome. 
  • Finished length - short short short! Because it's not super fitted and I will never be wearing this without leggings or tights I went with a nice mini length.

Excuse the selfie - I had no photographer this morning and it was a gorgeous Autumn day here in Melbourne, such beautiful morning light. I wore it all day and out for dinner too - toasty warm and tres chic!

Dress in action today - credit for photo goes to my mum. Mmmm Haighs chocolate



Saturday, 27 April 2013

Laurel V2.0 - Scandi forest

I've had this lovely lovely cotton lawn (from Spotlight of all places - it's Japanese and amazing quality) for ages, and been holding off making anything from it due to the colour. It's basically the same colour as me, and certainly not a flattering fabric close to my face, but after seeing the many cute peter pan collared tops out there in sewing land I thought it would make a lovely Laurel blouse, with a matching contrast peter pan collar to break up the creaminess.



My choices for the collar (shopping the stash) were some left over fuschia pink silk that I used to line my New Look 6000 or some black cotton-silk. I went with the pink because it was so bright and lovely, and drafted a collar using Gertie's tutorial which was fantastic, and facing it with bias using the same technique used to bind the collar on Megan Nielsen's Banksia top. I ended up hand sewing the binding down so I didn't accidently catch the right side of the collar. The collar is ok. It's not perfect but for a first attempt at both drafting a collar and sewing a collar I am quite pleased with it, and the contrast is so pretty with the pink of the trees in the main fabric. I think if it wasn't contrasting the little imperfections would be a little more hidden!




After my yellow Laurel I decided to try a little sleeve alteration, adding a little more fabric at the front armhole on the bodice but in retrospect I really shouldn't have worried - its a bit tight in this version and the fit and comfort of the yellow really is better. I also tried a couple of other slightly different techniques involving the sleeves. I eased the sleeve in using pins only, then basting, without gathering it at all. I used this tutorial, and was quite happy with the outcome - the first sleeve I just did zillions of pins and sewed it very slowly, the second I took the time to baste between the dots and I am officially now a sleeve-easing-basting convert. The other different technique (which I did in the yellow version too) was to set the sleeves in flat, before sewing up the side seams. Again I did a 6/8 inch seam allowance from about 2 inches above the armhole, down to the dart - I think for the dress I will do the whole sleeve/side seam at 6/8 seam allowance rather than mucking around trying to get a similar distance on each side. Maybe I will do a super-duper combo of one row of gathering stitches plus pin basting plus pin easing - there's so many sleeve setting opinions out there.......

The pulling at the armpit is not so bad in real life - not the best posture on my part....



I bound the sleeve edges in some of the fuchsia silk too, and am very happy with the effect. This little number will be my 2nd entry into the Colette competition. I have one more Laurel left in me before moving onto some more every day clothing for MMM - a dress, in beautiful Liberty cotton/wool, lined in what I think is rayon, for winter......


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Someone other than my mum reads my blog!

I had a nice surprise Sunday morning, to find that a very sweet blogger, Danielle from One Small Stitch had nominated me for the Liebster Award, which other sewing/crafty bloggers 'pass on' to blogs they enjoy and follow. Nominated blogs are to have less than 200 followers, so it seems like it helps newer or smaller bloggers get a bit more of an audience and helps people find blogs they may not have without a long journey down the internet rabbit hole. 

Now I've only been doing this blogging caper since January, and I get pretty darn excited if more than 20 people look at my blog each day, let alone leave me a comment on something I've made, so it was really lovely to have Danielle make that gesture. She's asked me 10 questions, so I will do my best to be  intriguing, talented and witty with my answers....

1. Why did you start sewing?
My mum taught me the basics when she decided I was old enough not to sew over my fingers. I remember the sewing room was her walk in wardrobe in a house we lived in when I was about 8-10 years old. She always sewed (so I suppose there's the answer!) and I just absorbed from her that being able to make something yourself was potentially always an option. I sewed basic stuff on and off throughout my teens and early adult years, then was given my machine by my fiance's mum a few years ago. I recently (in last 6-12 months) started garment sewing in earnest after finding the fabulous online sewing community, the resources of other sewists blogs and the fantastic range of independent pattern designers springing up. I keep sewing because I love it - I love beautiful fabrics, I love the challenge of being able to make stuff for me and my loved ones, and I love that it engages the left and right sides of my brain at the same time!

2. Five words that describe you: 
Optimistic, untidy, cat-lovin', perfectionist, kind (I hope!).





3. What is your favourite make?
There's a few that I am really happy with, but I think in terms of the scale of the project and the occasion  I am most proud of my New Look 6000 that I recently made for my friends wedding - it was the first time that I had lined something, I added a kick pleat to the pattern and felt pretty good wearing it!




4. And your least favourite?
It's a toss up between my utterly crapola recent attempt at pants, and an unblogged Iris shorts disaster that demonstrated to me that cheap shitty fabric is just not worth it.

5. What piece(s) of sewing equipment (besides your machine) could you not live without?
My iron, and my iPad. I read about the importance of pressing occasionally on some of the more popular blogs, and I cannot agree more. There's nothing more 'home made' looking than something that hasn't had its seams pressed properly. A good press improves the quality of EVERY sewn item.

I use my iPad nearly every time I sew, and definitely every time I sew a pattern for the first time. I have endless tutorials saved, plus ebooks that I have bought and downloaded onto my Pad that I use constantly - zip tutorials, setting in sleeves, collars, etc etc. One day I will do a whole post dedicated to the tutorials I use because I truly believe the reason I am enjoying my sewing and improving my skills is the seemingly endless assistance found out there on the Interwebs. 

6. What are your three favourite blogs?
Design Sponge - this was the first blog that I regularly visited. It's a great combination of interiors, food, travel, DIY, craft,  and the main contributors are crazy cat people too. Its always beautifully written and photographed, and I've spent many an hour ogling beauty in other people's lives.

Coletterie - this is probably my favourite sewing blog, mostly because of the vast amount of sewing resources saved in its archives. There are often links to other lovely sewing blogs, and many of the blogs I follow would have been found this way. The photography is beautiful, the design is gorgeous and I enjoy reading the discussions on some of the more thought provoking posts.

Tilly and the Buttons - last year my fiancee broke his leg, and we spent most of Autumn and all of Winter on the couch. It was during this time that I found the online world of sewing blogs, and I particularly adored Tilly's blog. I was so impressed by how much she had learned, and improved, and her gallery of finished makes was so cute! And I've just loved watching her on the Great British Sewing Bee (you can watch it via YouTube if you are not in the UK).

7.  What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Um in life in general or sewing? I'll go with sewing - improving my fitting skills to be able to confidently make alterations to patterns. This is what used to frustrate me as a teenager when I was sewing - I had no concept of the idea of improving fit, and I used to have total tanties when things didn't work out. If I had started a blog back then it would have been called 'Sewing without tears - an aspirational sewing blog'.

8. Sweet tooth or savoury?
Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet! 

9. What's the most daring thing you've ever done?
Move overseas to the UK and work and travel all on my little lonesome when I was about 28. Great fun!

10. What's your secret for a happy life?
Hmmmm. There are many ingredients I believe. This is going to be a bit deep and meaningful.
- Be kind - whenever I encounter people who are rude, nasty or cruel I wonder how happy they are in their lives. I am sure they can't be truly happy. I suspect they live their lives wondering why its all so hard..... 
- Be creative - find something (anything) that gets your creative mojo going. It might be music, sewing, painting, drawing, knitting, photography, writing. It doesn't matter if you are crap at it, but if you love it and it takes you away to a happy place away from the stressors in your every day life than it can only be good for you. 
- Appreciate beauty and quality - by this I mean the everyday beauty in life, nature, good food, great books, music, travel etc. 
- learn to be happy with what you have - once I realised that having more stuff wasn't going to make me a happier person I was able to work out what sort of belongings/objects and experiences did make me happy. 
- Don't rely on the presence of other people in your life to be your only source of happiness. Of course surrounding yourself with people you love and whom love you back is terribly important, but if your whole world is dependent on the existence of someone else in your life you are risking an awful lot. Know who you are and what you can do to be happy outside of your relationships. You'll be better company for it!
- Exercise - boring I know. 
- Don't eat crappy food - I was diagnosed with fructose malabsorption a few years ago and since changing my diet and cutting out food that makes me ill I've seen first hand how important eating well is to my health and happiness. Life is too short for crappy food (and instant coffee!). 
- Fabric!
- Cats!

Ehhhh. I'm tired writing about myself and my opinions. Now I am meant to nominate 10 other sewing blogs and pass this thing on. I don't follow that many blogs with fewer than 200 followers, and the ones that I do may already have had this come to them, so.........

Crab & Bee - Morgan is very stylish, makes and upcycles beautiful things and seems like a lovely gentle person. She also reminds me of my sweet cousin Hannah, so for that alone I enjoy reading her blog. And she has a cat........

Dive In! - Tess is a beginner blogger, like me and just starting to sew more clothes for herself. I found her through some shorts she had made on Burdastyle and I was terribly impressed by her welt pockets - the idea of them terrifies me! Not sure if she has a cat.

Poppy and Red Clover - Louise lives in Germany and has a penchant for Liberty fabrics, and makes simple items look just amazing with her wonderful skills and great taste in fabrics. It is highly likely that after seeing one of her Banksia tops on Flickr that I was forced inspired to source the same Liberty fabric with cats on it for a future project of my own....... She doesn't have a cat but I will forgive her on that one.

Tiny Nice Things - Neus is based in Barcelona and her blog is a mixture of her sewing and crafty adventures, plus beautiful photos of her Spanish world. I particularly love that she is part of a craft group called the Abuelitas Modernas, which I'm pretty sure translates to 'Modern Grannies'. Cat status uncertain.

And if these ladies should choose to answer my questions, here they are:
1 - Who taught you to sew?
2 - Where is your favourite shop to buy fabric and sewing related paraphernalia?
3 - Do you have any close friends or family that sew with the same passion as you? 
4 - Do your non-sewing friends think you are a bit of a granny, like mine?
5 - What are your 3 favourite fabrics in your stash and what do you intend to make with them?
6 - Share your top 3 sewing tutorials that you have found online.
7 - Do you have a favourite handmade gift you regularly make for friends or family?
8 - Do you shop for clothing much anymore, and if you do, how is it different to before you were regularly garment sewing?

Thats it! Clearly I am not great at following the Leibster rules, and only have 4 nominees and 8 questions, but I'm all for quality not quantity! Here's hoping we get some interesting replies!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Winter sunshine - Laurel blouse

So I do realise its not quite winter yet here in Melbourne, but it has been decidedly icy the last few days, which has more than justified the making of my first Colette Laurel in a lovely warm flannelette cotton. I suppose it's technically a wearable muslin - I have made a dress muslin that is/was going to be a dress lining, but this is a completed version of the blouse. I have to admit I was lazy and didn't actually print/tape/cut the blouse version, I just used the dress pattern and stopped cutting at the hips....

I've made it in a pretty but crazy yellow floral, an odd remnant I found at Savers. It does have a certain 70's winter bedsheet appearance, but the fabric was really narrow, only 95cm wide - maybe it was pillow case material!! Anyway I love it. Its a lovely sunny yellow and great on a grey day. 




The fit is pretty good - I had to move the bust darts down, and like many people have described there is some pulling from the lower front of the sleeves creating some diagonal lines. I constructed the sleeves slightly differently to the instructions - I've recently acquired a great sewing book (that I will review in more detail in a later post) by Sandra Betzina who suggests setting the sleeve caps in before sewing up the side seams and sleeve seams of the garment. Apparently its faster. Anyway I gave it a go, and it meant that I was able to make a little alteration to the sleeve hole, narrowing it a little by making the sleeve seam/armpit/side seam 1/8 inch deeper at the armpit - ie I set the sleeve cap, then pinned the sleeve from cuff through armpit down to the sideseam, and did a 5/8 inch seam allowance from cuff to just before the armpit, increased it to 6/8 inc, and tapered back to 5/8 inch by the time I was at the bust dart. Making the sleeve hole smaller can make a sleeve fit better - weird I know, but it means the seam sits up higher under the armpit, and there can be less pulling. If I'd inserted the sleeves after doing the seams I wouldn't have been able to make this alteration as smoothly I think. It also helped trimming the seams as suggested in the pattern instructions. 








There's been a bit of discussion on the Flickr Colette Patterns group offering advice on other ways to help with this sleeve pulling, including this suggestion, which I am going to try with my next version of the top which is going to be SO gorgeous. 

I think this is a lovely top, and I can't wait to make the dress (Liberty wool-cotton blend I'm talking to you!). I wore it all day today to work, and found it comfy to wear, warm and snuggly and definitely one of a kind! 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Me Made May 2013

So I've signed up to Me Made May at So Zo's blog.....

'I, Sarah of Fabric Tragic, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '13. I endeavour to wear one handmade or refashioned garment every non-work day, and at least 50% of work days for the duration of May 2013'.

Better get cracking! My massive gap is pants pants pants - I'm pinning my pants hope on my new Clover pattern.....Fingers crossed.

Unrelated but endlessly cute cat shot

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Burdastyle Dolman Sleeve Top 09/2011

I've been on a bit of a knit odyssey lately, trying some new patterns to make into some Autumn/Winter long sleeved tops for work and play. I've tried the Maria Denmark free t-shirt pattern, and found it to be a lovely flattering style with a wide-ish boat neck and kimono sleeve. I've not bothered taking pics as its black, unexciting and I didn't do a great job on the neckline binding - it gapes a bit because I think the binding piece was a bit long. It'll do for work though, and it really just is a wearable muslin.

Today was a great day - I had the time to make a complete project in one day, it was a gorgeous sunny Autumn day, and my beloved was working from home which meant I had a photographer on hand rather than having to take 35 self portraits to get 3 decent pics!

My project was a dolman sleeve knit top off Burdastyle, weirdly called The Striped top. Like many before me I did indeed make it in a stripe - a fine beige and navy linen jersey snapped up a while ago from Darn Cheap Fabrics for $2/m! It did have some flaws through it, but these were easily enough avoided. The pattern is very easy to make up, I took extra care to match up my (annoyingly fine) stripes on the shoulder/arm seams to get a nice chevron effect - I reckon without stripes it would have taken about 30 minutes less to make up!


I cut an extra small, after comparing it to some of my RTW tops. It was crazy long - almost a dress really, so I took 4 inches off the bottom of the pattern, and ended up cutting another few inches off the bottom and turning it into a band to hem it, Renfrew style. In retrospect either I didn't make the band tight enough or its just a bit too sloppy and loose a style to be finished this way. I may yet chop the band off and just hem it. I need my work tops to be 3/4 sleeve too, so I shortened the sleeves too. I've seen some great dolman tops with a tighter band finishing the cuff - I might do this on a future make. This version I just hemmed the sleeves with some steam-a-seam and a double needle. I find using the steam-a-seam prevents the fabric bunching up between the two lines of the double stitching. I did lower the neckline slightly, and widened it to be more bateau-neck rather than round, by tracing the neckline of the Maria Denmark kimono t-shirt I mentioned at the start of the post, and finished it with self binding. Like the t-shirt, its not quite perfect - I made the length of the binding 15% less than the length of the neckline, but it is still a little sloppy especially in the back. I think next time I will do the binding 20% less. This knit is very drapy, so it might be the reason why its a bit loose still. Next time I will probably also do a sway back adjustment too - there's heaps of fabric pooling in my lower back, and maybe make the sleeves a little narrower.



Nice chevron, fairly crappy back neckline

Front neckline not too bad - could be snugger though....

Hem band - might be a bit more flattering if it was a bit tighter
And the cherry on the cake that was my lovely day - I picked up my engagement ring from being resized and cleaned and it's just so gorgeous that I wanted to share. It's vintage, apparently 1940's, in an illusion setting, one central diamond and 4 little diamond 'chips' surrounding it:


Love it, love the man who gave it to me!
Coming up next - my Colette Laurel WIP!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Bread and butter sewing - epic fail - Burdastyle Cropped Trousers

Autumn has well and truly hit Melbourne. Literally overnight we went from a 36 degree day, down to about 15, and the cold weather has hit me like a freight train. The change in season has made me reassess my sewing priorities and needs. Needs?! Since when did selfish sewing take into account needs? But it is true - I need more work clothes, and more warm clothes for the cooler weather. A couple of years ago I lost a little weight - not heaps, about 4kg, and I could not believe how much more I felt the cold with that little layer of chub missing. So as soon as the temperature drops below about 20 I become Queen of the Layers, both at home and at work.

Work. The work wardrobe. How I wish my job allowed me to wear cute skirts, tights and leggings. Not a chance - I need trousers, sturdy fabrics, short or 3/4 sleeves in fabrics that are washable and flexible. I've read about the description 'cake vs frosting', with 'cake' being every day office-friendly wear I suppose. I wouldn't even call my work wardrobe cake - more like 'bread and butter'! I never used to search out 'nice' things for work, but now I am aiming for the bulk of my wardrobe to be self made this is going to change (if I have to do Bread-and-Butter sewing at least it will be organic sourdough with french-salted Lescure butter). I have already been wearing a lot of the summer tops I have made to work, but am yet to perfect the essential item of my work wardrobe - the stylish yet sturdy trouser......

Late last year I had a go at Burda Style Cropped Trousers 02/2010 #111 B. I don't have any photos of the WIP but unsurprisingly I did have some fitting issues which I diagnosed as too much fabric in the torso creating excessive 'crotch folds' according to the Colette Patterns Pants Diagnosis cheat sheet. I made the inseam a little bigger, and managed to get a very wearable muslin - in fact I have been wearing them to work on a weekly basis since and have been very happy with them. I made them out of a sort of stretch denim in a purply-brown-grey that I found at Savers.

Exhibit A:



Not perfect, but not bad either, especially with a longer uniform top on. I thought it would be a snap to make the adjustment recommended - I removed about an inch from the torso length, and cut out my next fabric to try. This one was a khaki brown stretch twill - slightly lighter weight than the purple denim, but with a lot more stretch. I've lost a little weight since making the purple ones, but I cut out the same size (with the alterations) and just did the side seams at 6/8 inch rather than 5/8 inch.

Exhibit B:




Awful. Just awful. Not even able to get away with a longer top. The weird thing is that despite still having those excess folds at the crotch they were giving me a nasty front-bum wedge - inexplicably too big yet creating a camel toe (or mumble pants as my friends from uni used to call them). And I didn't find this out until I had finished EVERYTHING EXCEPT THE HEMS. I'd even gone to the effort of making belt loops. Crap.



 Even the cat was disgusted. So cute, but still disgusted.

So I need a better pattern. This one has exhausted my beginner fitting skills. Its actually quite similar I think to the Colette Clover pattern, and I am thinking it should be my next pattern to try. I do want to try something with a fly front, but that might be a goal for later in the year. I was so happy with the fit of my Iris shorts - they required no adjustments at all, and just for a look I compared the pattern pieces of the Burda Atrocities to the Iris ones:

Back pieces - Iris on top

Front Pieces - Iris on the right

Iris shorts
Clearly the Iris shorts are a lot looser around the seat, but its the shape of the rise I'm most interested in - the back rise of the Iris shorts is a lot shorter than the Burda trousers, but the front rise seems a little shorter! I'm wondering if the designer, Sarai, based the Clover and Iris rise shapes on similar blocks. I've found one sewing blogger who has made both so I think I need to put the call out on the Flickr Colette Patterns Group to see if anyone else can help me. I suppose I can always email them at Colette, but I'd be a bit shy to!

I'm super keen to get a trousers pattern that fits well - not just for work, but also for play - I have some awesome fabrics set aside for some great 60's style cropped trousers:

Grey marle, awesome check with turquoise and pink, and digital floral

 And I see that the call out has been made for Me-Made-May - I'd love to have a crack at this, so until I do some more research on the Clovers, I shall continue my Bread and Butter sewing, focussing on tops!

BTW - did you notice my utterly awesome new slippers in the top pics? So damn warm and comfortable, and deliciously cute! LOVE!