Saturday, 28 September 2013

SEWN: "FEELING FRUITY" DRESS

Simplicity 2180, View D without sleeves.


This was my first time working with a modern Big 4 pattern in a very long time. Also made during my period of extreme "fuggness" (I do like making words up), and consequently it nearly ended up in the UFO pile.

AKA: The Dress That Nearly Broke Me and in the end I had to relinquish my anally retentive tendencies and just give in to a gloriously imperfect make.

Or it could even be known as The Dress That Drove Me To Finally Learn Pattern Redrafting/Adjustment.


I had been planning this dress for donkey's years. I'm not sure why it took me so long to start, but when I found this awesome fabric I knew just which pattern to use. Even better I'd been lusting after the fabric for some time when it suddenly went on sale for something ridiculous like $5 per metre. Score! It's a lovely crisp vintage print cotton poplin from Spotty. Who doesn't like citrus fruit?

But "heartache" would be understating my state of mind whilst undertaking this make. I just couldn't seem to get things right. There was a lot of unpicking and head scratching going on, let me tell you.


It started with problems with the bodice fit. I have yet to learn how to do a small bust adjustment, and this is the dress that pushed me to make my Summer Sewing Promise No. 4. I relied on the somewhat tried and true and quick and dirty of simply taking in the side seams to get a better bodice fit. Um... wasn't working. 

Those bust darts were just looking saggy and baggy and the bodice decidedly unfilled. I mean, look at that photo above. It's a travesty I tell you, a travesty. That's even wearing one of my most padded bras. I just gave up, my brain just wasn't up to the task. I present to you, my gloriously imperfect bodice. Feck it...

And I used a really cheap fusible interfacing which has left all the interfaced pieces permanently wrinkly/crinkly. No matter how much I press those pieces those wrinkles come back within minutes.


One of the things that really attracted me to this dress was the v-back option and I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I couldn't quite get the v nice and neat, but it's not bad.

My topstitching was a hot mess and why I decided to do it in a contrasting colour is beyond me. Grrrr... I just didn't have the energy to unpick and redo. The likelihood was it wouldn't have been much better.

But you know what? In the end I really like this dress. Heartache aside, I'm really proud I did get it finished and I've worn it a number of times and always get complimented on it. I've even been stopped in the street and asked where I got it. That's not so bad! It's a happy ending after all.


Pattern changes/alterations

  • I cut a 10 bodice and a 12 skirt. I didn't need a 12 skirt for fit, but this skirt is not terribly full and I wanted a bit more flounce. I gathered the 12 skirt into the 10 waistband.
  • I underlined the bodice with an ivory coloured cotton voile, even though underlining (or any lining) wasn't called for. I was concerned the fabric would be a little transparent. I decided in the end not to line the skirt and it's just fine.

Lessons learned

  • Don't keep trying and trying when the old brain fog sets in. You'll just want to take scissors to your dress and cut it into a million irreparable pieces. And Jillian, that would make you a little cray-cray.
  • DON'T USE CHEAP FUSIBLE INTERFACING. It's a false economy, dammit!
  • Try grading the bodice as well as adjusting the bust. I think I really need to start at a size 8 at the shoulder and neckline and grade out to a 10 at the waist. Making a muslin would probably help, but who has the feckin' time?
  • Embrace the gloriously imperfect and love it anyway... and I do.

I'm off to brunch now!


Friday, 20 September 2013

Thrifty Business

I hit the local Salvo's store recently (that's "thrift store" to non-Australians). I cannot believe the stuff others find when thrifting 'cause let me tell you I find nothing but crap. I don't know if you have to live in or visit affluent areas, where thrift stores become a mecca of cast off designer labels, awesome haberdashery and general amazingness... let's just say none of those applied to my trip.

Mine tends to be filled with trash, not treasure and awesomely hideous 80's/90's sewing patterns.

Check out my haul!


I tried to look at those awesomely hideous patterns with fresh eyes today. I occasionally see a fellow blogger blog a recent make. I'm drooling over it's loveliness and then.... they show the pattern it came from and I think, Huh?? I have to admit to not having too much vision sometimes. I often fail to see the possibilities past the photos/illustrations on the pattern envelope. And that's to my detriment. The proof is in the pudding and not the pattern envelope it would seem.

Here's what I walked away with...

Let's start with New Look 6225, dated 1994.


Ahhh yes, the 90's. I actually had a pair of pants very much like these and lurrrrved them. I think they'll make for a great basis for a modern wide-legged pant. Not sure about the high waist, though I loved mine at the time. Not so much the dress.... and the, um, bra top thingy... moving right along.

And now Butterick 6213, dated 1992.


Love me a pair of culottes! Go on, look, both those images to the right of the envelope. And a culotte playsuit? Woot, woot! I have to admit to not even noticing they were culottes when I picked up the pattern. I just really like the View A sundress and know I can make a great summer dress out of this... and maybe a playsuit... or two. And I'm yet to sew a sweetheart neckline and we all need a sweetheart, don't we?

Boring Burda 7659, undated.



This looks a pretty modern pattern, but it's hard to tell. Take a close look at View A and C in the little line drawings at the top. I like the shape of these and with the right fabric I think they'll work. I like a loose-ish top with all my skinny jeans, might just lop off some length. I love how the previous owner had made notes all over the envelope... "Looks good from front, really bad from side!". I'll take that as fair warning.

Next up, See & Sew by Butterick 3192, undated, but I'm thinking it looks 70's maybe 80's. Any idea out there?


It doesn't bode well though when your hubby says, You're not seriously going to make that are you? Vision P, vision! I'm not gonna layer it with the shirt/t-shirt, I see this as a great beach cover up in a slightly shorter length and light fabric. Only problem is the size range, from 12-16. I'm more of a 10, but I'm sure I can sort it out.

And finally, the pièce de résistance. Kwik Sew 669, undated, but come on! It just screams 70's.



Oh the dramatic poses, the windswept hair! Don't you just crave your own jumpsuit right about now? This one was a "just because". How could you not? It makes me smile.

At 50c a pop I reckon they were worth it.

Oh, and two pieces of knit fabric. About 1m of blue ribbing ($1) and just over 1m of yellow t-shirt type fabric - a mid-weight polycotton jersey ($3). Bargain! It will give me something to practice my newly acquired knit fabric sewing skills on.

Perhaps not the most mouth-watering collection, but I definitely see some cake, if not frosting, amongst them.

Do you have an experience of making an awesome garment from a pattern that you might have walked past based on the hideous pattern envelope styling or illustration? Do share!!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

SEWN: MY NEW FAVE TOP?

Summer Sewing Promise No. 1 - DONE! Tessuti's Our Fave Top.

Stripes seem to confuse my camera. Couldn't get this to focus properly for love nor money!
This was a top of firsts: first time sewing with knits, first time using the differential feed on my overlocker/serger, first time using my twin needle on my regular machine.

Phew, that was a lot of firsts.


I was really hesitant going into this. I bought the fabric over a year ago, prepped it for cutting and sewing and then abandoned it. All I could hear in my head was What were you thinking?

This fabric, my lovely readers, is a bitch the most ridiculously slinky, stretchy, unstable knit I think I could have chosen. I'm sure you will all tell me it isn't so, but I don't give a toss. It's a viscose/elastane, which feels lovely to touch and wear and I love the drape, but holy crap! Even laying it out to cut... I was rapidly losing patience. But I eventually pinned it into submission and the rest, as they say, is history.

Before construction I made sure to test, and test, and then test again. A bit of fiddling and the differential feed on my serger worked like a charm. No gathering or awful seam puckering to be seen. I used a three-thread overlock stitch, though I'd normally use a four thread for construction seams. It just seemed to handle my fabric better using that stitch, so lets hope it holds and I don't live to regret it.

My regular machine, my lovely Janome DC2101LE, handled the hemming and neckline just beautifully. I didn't need to fiddle with thread tension or feed dogs or anything. I whacked in the double needle (I used a Klasse Twin Stretch needle, Size 75, 2.5mm) and off I went. I was really careful not to push or pull the fabric through, just let it feed naturally into the machine. That's the thing with this fabric - it's quite heavy and I had to ensure I supported it's full weight at all times during sewing or I know I'd have ended up with wavy, stretched out hems.

But check out the results! Lovely.

Lets ignore that stray thread there on the left...
Changes/additions to the pattern? 
I used cotton/twill tape to stabilise the shoulder seams from neckline to about 8 inches down the seam. It worked a treat - simply fed it through on top of the seam as it went through the overlocker. This fabric really needs some help to not stretch out whilst being worn. I also took 2 inches off the length and my seams were also 5/8 inch, as I couldn't find directions about seam allowances until I had nearly finished the top.

Will I make it again?
Not sure, it's fairly distinctive so maybe not. If I did I'd remove some width from the neckline. It's very wide and P even asked if it was "one of those sexy off-the-shoulder numbers?" Um... no

If there is anyone out there who hasn't yet attempted knits, I'd recommend the pattern. It's a very forgiving garment, with little to no fitting to be done and any mistakes like uneven hem stitching, just disappears into its awesome voluminousness (did I just make that word up?).

My new fave top? I like it, I know I'll wear it as part of my jeans and top uniform. That will do for me...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Part 2: Vintage Gifts for a Vintage Birthday

Oh yes, P outdid himself in the the birthday gift area this year. Not only the Singer Featherweight 221K, but this very dear to me gift...

1950's/1960's Ladies Step-Through Single Speed
That, right there, is a bike owned and used by my Grandfather and then my dear Dad. But I can assure you it didn't arrive to me looking anything like this. In fact, it looked a bit like this...

In need of a little TLC?
Ouch. Poor old bike. I found her after digging around my brother's garage one weekend a few months back. I spied the gorgeous leather Brooks saddle first and thought, well what have we got here?



My excitement upon extricating her from the mess of a hoarder's paradise was indescribable. I'm a bit obsessed with bikes...

She really needed a lot of work and my brother wasn't interested in doing it. So we claimed her and brought her home, whereupon my incredibly clever and indulgent P set about transforming her.

And what a job he did.


Thank you so much P, I do love her so, and I love her all the more for the love and time you poured into her. I know that if my Dad and Grandfather were still with us they'd be stoked, just stoked...

What's the most precious birthday gift you ever received??



Saturday, 7 September 2013

Knit: Scalloped Lace Hat

Squidginess, snuggliness, what's not the love?


Pattern: Scallop Lace Hat by Leah Coccari-Swift (PS. this is a Ravelry link and you will need to join Ravelry to access)

Yarn: Cleckheaton Perfect Day 8 Ply in Natural (1000) - 70% wool, 30% alpaca. Used just over 1 ball which is a wee bit annoying as I don't have quite enough left on the second ball to knit another as a gift :(

Needles: Knit Pro Symfonie Wood Interchangeable Circular Needle Tips and Cables. There is no better needle system in my mind. Just, awesome.

Lessons Learned:

  • I much prefer to follow a lace chart than try to decipher text driven directions. Does that make me a visual person?
  • Head banging against desk and repeat after me "I will count all stitches remaining in lace panels after every repeat to avoid completing a round and having to tink back to fix an error". Seriously Jillian, you have to start reading back over previous lessons learned!
Love that awesome sweater peaking out from the bottom of shot? You can check it out here.

This will be the last of the Winter Knitting projects folks... I think. In fact shortly after knitting this the weather in Sydney turned unseasonably warm, like 26 degrees celsius. Mental, I tell you, mental.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

"I hereby do solemnly swear...": Spring/Summer Sewing Promises

Spring has sprung! And has it what in Sydney. Winter, a very mild one at that, was over in a day. And with that definite shift to warmer temperatures, I feel the summer sewing urge upon me.

I've decided that this Spring/Summer period I need to set myself some sewing direction. I generally don't mind seeing where the fancy takes me (and will continue to do so), but sometimes I veer off in numerous directions and never complete projects I intended. This list isn't exhaustive, there will be other projects, but the below are non-negotiable.

I hereby promise to complete the following by Summer's end:

1. A stretch/knit fabric garment: I don't know what it is about stretch fabrics, but they give me the heebie geebies. I remember sewing stretch fabrics in my teen years and never giving it a second thought. But I haven't touched the stuff since taking up sewing again in earnest over 3 years ago. I've solely sewn wovens. But, I hereby solemnly swear to complete my version of Tessuti's Our Fave Top, a pattern that I have had printed, taped together and fabric ready for cutting for well over a year!!



2. Desensitise myself to the Negroni shirt: I have sewn Colette Pattern's Negroni shirt before and it was such an epic undertaking (checks, plaid matching aggghhh), that I was battle-scarred and swore never to do it again. Then I saw this awesome western style plaid (again!!!) on sale at The Fabric Store earlier this year and it was screaming to be made into a short sleeved version. Sanity, I am sorry, but this is gonna happen... again...



3. Find the Bombshell within: I know, I know, you are sick of seeing these all over blogland. But seriously, I think every woman needs a Bombshell swimsuit. Have you seen the ridiculously fabulous versions already out there? Google it, go on, I'll wait! I think it looks awesome on every shape and size. I gotta get me a bit of Bombshell... perhaps after fulfilling Number 1 above... stretch fabrics eek.

4. Learn to properly adjust for my small bust: Ok, I've said it. I. HAVE. A. SMALL. BUST. Small boobs in fact - my chest measurement isn't that tiny (34"). And I have no idea how to carry out an SBA. It will happen this summer. No more of this taking in the side seams and hoping for the best malarkey. It just doesn't cut it! I've even purchased Craftsy's Adjust the Bust class. Now I just have to take the workshop and learn this shit once and for all!

5. Use all attachments that came with my vintage Singer Featherweight 221K


They bamboozle the hell out of me, but let's do this! This doesn't mean they have to be used in the construction of a garment, but if not, they at least have to be used to create a sample of work.

6. Use those damn doohickies: Those things, down there... (minds out of the gutter people)


Otherwise known as Seam Allowance Guides, they ingeniously alleviate the need to mark the seam allowance when using patterns that don't include them (why, I ask,why??????). You whack the doohickey on your scissor blade and hey presto, consistent cutting of seam allowances without marking. Look, it's hard to explain okay? Just read the directions. This promise includes the commitment to finally sew up one of those maddening, no seam allowance patterns. A year's subscription to Octobre magazine will not have been taken in vain.


I think that's it for now. Let's not go to cray-cray with promises!

And whilst there will be many distractions along the way (think: pretty fabrics, awesome patterns, other FOs), they will prevail.

OK, who's gonna hold me to these promises? Have you set any of your own?

Sunday, 1 September 2013

KNIT: SWEATER LOVE, MY BURNISHED CAPE COD

Oh friends, how I looooooove this garment.


Thea Colman's Cape Cod

Oh my gosh, I knit a full-sized garment! Not a hat, not a scarf, but a really truly adult-sized garment. 

And I love you so... you with your squishy yarn and beautiful lace design.

This is my version of Thea Colman's Cape Cod Sweater. I'm a bit of a fan of Thea's designs, and this is my first knit. My first of many I suspect. (You can find Thea's patterns on Ravelry. Just remember, you will need to join Ravelry to log in and access these).

I had knit a few hats just immediately prior to taking this rather large leap of faith with my burgeoning knitting skills, but I am so glad I had the nerve to go for it. 

Gorgeous lace detail - excuse the pilling on the sleeve,I have literally worn this thing to death
I used Amy Butler's Belle Organic DK for Rowan in Ochre: it's a beautiful 50% organic cotton, 50% organic wool. I find this the perfect weight and composition for Sydney winters which are never that cold. The stitch definition is wonderful. Unfortunately this yarn has been discontinued. But, you may get lucky like me and pick up some from Sunspun.

This knit is a top down, in-the-round scenario, which I adore. I hate the idea of having to seam a flat knit garment. You literally finish this one and the only tidying you need to do is weaving in the ends and blocking it. Really you could pretty much finish casting off and pull that baby straight on. What's not to love about that? All up it took about 6 weeks of knitting about 1.5 hours a day, most (but definitely not all, I've got a life!) days a week. I was pretty happy with that.

Changes to the pattern:

I made no real departures from the pattern except the following minor ones:
  • added just a little bit more raglan depth before separating the sleeves, but probably didn't really need to.
  • added just a touch to the body length (about 1 inch) as I am quite long waisted and really didn't fancy a cropped sweater. 
  • added just a little extra length (perhaps 1/2 inch) to the sleeves. I really don't think of myself as having gorilla-like proportions, but neither do I like sleeves that ride up and have me constantly yanking them down.
Lessons learned:
  • How to TINK. Folks, for those who don't know, that's "knit" in reverse and that's exactly what it entails. Just pray you don't have to tink back over 300 stitches to find and fix a bitch of an error (more than once, people, more than once!). That tinking included SSK, K2tog, SL1 K2tog PSSO and increases. I am a serious expert at tinking now. Grrrr. Lesson? Count the remaining stitches in each and every lace section before moving on, instead of finding extra or missing stitches on the next round.
  • Pilling is a bitch. You can see it in that second shot. Major pillage. Gotta take a time out and give that sucker a shave. From what I've read pilling can tend to stop after a few washes so we'll see.
So that's it folks, my new garment crush. 

Now, I'm looking for my next project. What's your favourite yarn or knitting pattern and why?