Casting on

Monday, 28 October 2013

A gorgeous bunch lot of deliciousness finally landed on my proverbial doorstep this week. Finally! All the way from the UK! Could it be any slower?!

And then I just had to get right into it and start swatching...

... so I can get started on my WORK + SHELTER Lace Striped Tee, by Allyson Dykhuizen. 

Allyson's friend, Theresa VanderMeer, runs an organization called The Lotus Odyssey that exports fair-trade products from different eco/people-friendly groups in India. Theresa has started a foundation called WORK+SHELTER "that creates safe spaces across India where women in need can come to live and work. W+S encourages self-reliance amongst its female stakeholders while promoting hands-on training and capacity building. At W+S women are taught to use the skills they have or develop new ones, and contribute to the success of the organization by effectively filling their role within the larger production process. Apparel and accessories produced by the women are then sold to overseas markets" (text directly from

Allyson was asked to design garments and accessories that will be hand knit by the women living and working at WORK+SHELTER. The sweaters in this pattern are two of those items. If you click on the pattern link above you can grab your copy if you feel so inclined...

I like it... and so I cast on.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

... in my beautiful, my beautiful, balloooooooooooon!

Otherwise known as vintage Simplicity 7395, Short Skirt (dated 1976).

Go on, admit it! You know you want a hot air balloon skirt for yourself now don't you? Or would you prefer that sassy red number with the chook embroidered on the pocket? Huh, huh? Damn if that transfer for said chook was missing, presumed used by an earlier style savvy sewer.

Short interlude: I believe I am the luckiest girl in the world. For many reasons, but not least of which is that I tend to be gifted the most amazing bagfuls of vintage 1970s patterns you've ever seen. Past and present workmates and gorgeous friends have delighted in my makes for ages and know my addiction obsession passion for 1970s patterns knows no bounds. They just work for my shape and I am a lover of simple crisp lines for my body type.

Whenever someone is undergoing a major house clean out they bag them up and then present them to a very giddy, excited Miss Jillian. Squeeeeee! This pattern was one such find and weirdly I was looking everywhere for an a-line wrap skirt pattern that I liked. I was just about to purchase Tilly's Miette when this baby slipped into my sweaty, overexcited hands. In my humble and personal opinion this pattern is wayyyyy better, I prefer the less exaggerated a-line of this one.

This was a very straightforward make and required no alterations. Yay! Since it is a wrap skirt, its pretty forgiving, but I must say that it does seem to wrap to exactly where it should in the back and doesn't strain or hang weirdly...

As yet I haven't had a wardrobe malfunction resulting in a knicker display, which is an awesome outcome!

The pockets are super cool in that they wrap around the side front and finish at the side back. I thought perhaps they'd add bulk, but they're great. And side darts form the waistline shaping as there are no side seams.

How come this skirt looked perfectly ironed when inside my home, but in daylight it looks like I slept in it/wrestled a monkey?

Now, styling advice, lovely friends. What colour top would you wear with this? I made a wardrobe booboo in that I don't have any tops other than this old black tank that work with it. Blame it on fabric love, which wipes out all reason/wardrobe planning. Anywho, what colour/style people???

I call this baby a success, I likey...

Can I just apologise for photography here, peeps? I have been waiting and waiting to photograph my recent makes and have been delayed with ridiculous work commitments in the last few weeks and no hubby around to help me with a photo shoot. This was done with a remote shutter release and I still need some practice. I had to edit the shit out of these shots to get them in focus/adjust the glare and now they look a bit weird.

New Toys!

Monday, 7 October 2013

After reading a post by the lovely Tasia of Sewaholic regarding tips for using rotary cutters, I decided to finally take the plunge and invest in a cutting mat and rotary cutter. Can I just say this was a bloody miracle?

Did anyone else read the comments on that post with stories of gruesome amputations (well near, but that wouldn't sound so exciting would it?) and severed nerves (that one did actually happen)? How did that become a selling point? Perhaps I'm just a little weird.

I don't have any problems with using scissors to cut my fabric. I do, however, have major problems with kneeling on the floor and not being able to stand back upright following said pattern cutting. I am not what would be considered "old" (not sure about thresholds for using that term), but lord do my knees and back have something to say about that.

I started cutting on the dining table (AKA my sewing space), but have had a few occasions when I thought a cutting mat would be useful.

So with my very lovely 40% off voucher for Spotlight I decided to treat myself.

I ended up with the Birch Craft double-sided cutting board, 60 x 90cm, which after discount could be considered quite reasonably priced. This seems the largest size readily available in fabric stores in my area and it is pretty much perfect. Most fabric I work with is 110cm wide, so with fabric folded in half the board's 60cm width happily accommodates. Most of what I'd cut is longer than 90cm, but you can easily slide the board up under the fabric when a move is required.

I also settled on this board as it has both metric and imperial rules on the sides, whereas a few others were only imperial.

This particular Fiskars rotary cutter attracted me for a few reasons. The grip is very ergonomic and I felt that it would prevent the infamous Oops my fingers lid down the shaft and I sliced off my index finger scenario of those with a simple long handle. The titanium blades were another selling point given they are purportedly harder and stay sharper for longer. With the price of replacement blades that's got to be a good thing...

And is that a pretty project on the go below?

Why yes! And I can report that the rotary cutter and board are working just perfectly.

Anyone else a died in the wool fan of the rotary cutter and cutting mat, or would you be a shears person all the way to the grave?

SEWN + TUTORIAL: I'm truly biased about this Darling Dora dress!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Ok, this post has been a lonnnnnnngggggg time in the making, sitting patiently in the background waiting to shine. This is also my very first tutorial so be nice... I actually didn't approach this project with a tutorial in mind, simply decided along the way, so I'm hoping it all makes sense.

Don't you know a little one that just needs one of these ruffle front dresses? If so, read on.

Step 1:
Find a dress pattern: First you need a pattern for an a-line dress or even a jumper/pinafore. Depending on the age of your child I can highly recommend the FREE Toddler Swing Top pattern by Kelli of True Bias (hence the pun in the post title), which I used for this dress. A disclaimer before you get too excited: this pattern is in size 2T only, so if your little munchkin is another size you'll need to look elsewhere. Or if you're clever you might be able to grade this one up or down. My little one was nearly three and I made some pretty simple changes to get it to fit.

Now this pattern is for a top, so in order to make it dress length I simply measured a few of M's RTW dresses for length and extended the pattern accordingly. I added about 8 inches to the length following along and extending the a-line of the pattern. I also added about 1cm to the top of each shoulder seam as I found the armhole a bit snug when I made M the top at an earlier pre-blogging time. I find M grows up but not out, so often in a forgiving pattern you'll just have to fiddle with length and armscye depth a bit.

I wanted a decorative hem (no turn up), so I cut it 1.5cm longer than the actual desired finished length. If you want to hem your dress with a turn up, you'll need to account for this when deciding on dress length.

Step 2:
Choose an absolutely adorable fabric for your dress. M is a bit of a Dora fan so when I saw this fabric on sale for $5 per metre I snapped it up. It's a bit of a weird fabric, certainly cotton, but more of an uncoated decor/ curtain weight.

Step 3:
Prep the pattern and fabric and cut out the pieces. You'll also need to cut some bias strips 2 inches wide and at least 2 times the length of the dress front. You can join a few bias strips together to create the length you need. (I'm not going to walk you through this, but a good tutorial can be found here).

Step 4:
Mark the centre front line of the dress. The dress front is cut on the fold, so I simply kept the piece folded and pressed it lightly along this fold to give me a visual to work with.

Then open out the piece and on the RIGHT SIDE use tailors chalk (or a washable ink pen, or really anything as it'll be covered by the frill forever more) and a rule to mark the centre line on the fabric, from neckline to hem.

Step 5:
I chose to complete some of the construction before attaching any ruffles. I sewed the centre back seam, the shoulder seams and bound the neckline, BUT I did not sew the side seams.

Step 6:
Create your ruffle. Ok, so you should have created a bias strip about double the length of the dress front. You do not need to finish the long edges as cutting on the bias prevents huge fraying, and I wanted the edges to fray just a little after a few washes to add to the look. You will need to finish the short ends and I chose one of my sewing machine's decorative stitches that I also wanted to use for the hem (see Step 9 below). But you could turn and hem the ends if you choose to.

We need to sew a gathering stitch right down the centre of the bias strip. A gathering stitch involves a long straight stitch (I set my stitch length to 5mm) with a lower tension (I set mine at one point below regular). As the strip is 2 inches wide I simply aligned the right edge of my bias strip at the 1 inch marking on my throatplate. Go ahead and sew that gathering line, I'll wait...

Next we are going to gather the strip. Pull on one of the threads at one end of the strip (not both bobbin and needle threads, just one or the other). You'll see the band start to gather up and you want to keep going until your ruffle is the length of your desired finished length of the dress front (after hemming or finishing). Make sure the gathers are even up the length of the strip.

Euw... ignore that dirty ironing board cover
Above you'll see the decorative stitch on the ends.

Step 7:
Attach your ruffle. Lay out your dress front on a work surface (I used my ironing board for everything!). Starting at the top align one end of the ruffle to the top of the neckline.

Make sure if you have a one directional print that you have the ruffle right side to the top. Using your chalk line as a guide start pinning the ruffle to the dress front aligning the gathering stitch line with your chalk line (middle of dress front). You may need to adjust your gathers as you go to ensure they are neatly distributed and the ruffle is the right length.

Make sure you have re-set your straight stitch for regular sewing. Align the gathering stitch of the ruffle right under you needle and sew the ruffle to the dress front, along the gathering stitch, all the way to the bottom.

And you now have a ruffley dress front! Yay you!

Step 8:
Continue on with the rest of the construction: sew your side seams, make a button loop, and attach your button (see the True Bias Pattern instructions for more info).

Step 9:
Finish your hem. As mentioned at the beginning of the post I cut my dress at the desired finished length plus 1.5cm: I envisaged a gorgeous decorative stitch instead of a turned hem as can be seen here...

This is a scallop stitch/embroidery. I simply sewed the stitch all around the hemline approx 1cm above the bottom. Then I used scissors to cut around the curves very carefully to create a scalloped edge. Don't worry, the edge softens after a few washes so it doesn't continue to look jagged.

And you're done! Yay! You have your very own ruffle front dress!

Hopefully you have an equally gorgeous child to fill it....

Need a weekend project? Done! Go to it...
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