Thursday, 23 January 2014

Fabric Visionary

I spent a glorious hour or so at The Fabric Store in Sydney yesterday. Sigh... swoon.

This is the third visit I've made and I love that store more and more every time. I always find what I'm after, even when I didn't know I wanted it.

Yesterday's purchase was the gorgeous silk twill above. You can see the beautiful twill weave better in the shot below.
Oh, the colours, the drape, the price, the generosity.

I cannot say enough about the staff at The Fabric Store. They are incredibly helpful and approachable without crowding you. And generous! I won't describe or name the assistant that was helping me with my purchase as I wouldn't want to get her in trouble, but let me just tell you a little story. I was chatting with said assistant about the potential washability of the silk she was about to cut for me. She suggested, as is their policy, that the fabric be drycleaned only, but that I could always try washing a small swatch to see how it goes. She says to me as she's about to cut, "I'll just throw in a little extra so you can have a play". Dudes! When I got home and pulled out the fabric it seemed an awful lot. She gave me a whole extra metre! Whaaaaaaat! That's a serious swatch to play with. Me thinks I'll get two garments out of this rather than one.

This silk is destined to become Victory Pattern's Roxanne, Version 2.

I'm ashamed to say I still haven't cut into the fabrics I purchased at my past two visits. Oh the shame, oh the stashing. It's weird too as I purchased all three of the following for specific projects.

This glorious swimsuit lycra is planned for that Bombshell on my Spring/Summer Sewing List. Can I admit to being terrified of sewing with lycra and making a ham of this project? I really wanna Bombshell but I fear my sewing with stretch skills are not up to it. Oh how I loooooove this fabric. It is exactly what I had in mind.

At a Sydney Sewists Social in early 2013 I purchased this most awesome shirting with another Negroni in mind for P, this time short-sleeved. I'll admit to being slightly battle-scarred from my last attempt. Plaid matching, ughhhhh. This fabric is the most ridiculously soft and light shirting. Perfect for a casual summer shirt.

This one was also purchased at that same event. In fact, I saw Gabrielle whacking down this stunning cotton sateen (with a little elastine) on the counter and I thought "now, I need me some of that". It turned out Gabrielle was also earmarking this one for shorts and we actually had a little wager on who'd get theirs done first.

Ummmmmm. Well I say Gabrielle welched, as she made this amazing dress out of hers. Me, I messed up how much I needed and think I may be a bit short. I was so deflated I never even layed it all out to see if it would fit anyway. I need a kick up the ass.

I'm energised to revisit all these projects now. Let's see how I go...

And finally, yesterday was the fabric shopping trip that just kept on giving. As I was having my silk cut, I spied a roll of wool coating the likes of which I only dreamed of finding for my New York Cape. It turned out that the whole roll had been purchased, but they went ahead and found me a few metres at the Brisbane store. It's winging its way towards me as I write, ready for stitching this winter.

The Fabric Store... that is all

Sunday, 19 January 2014


Ahhh siestas. Long languid summer afternoons, salty sea breezes gently caressing the skin. Cool comfortable, crisp and flowy dresses, and light beach cover ups. This dress fits the bill beautifully.

Have you ever worked with patterns that just come together? You know what I mean. Each piece aligns perfectly with the next. There are no messy instructions and indecipherable diagrams. The garment just appears before your eyes seamlessly... so to say.

My name is Jillian and I am having a little love affair with Japanese patterns.

I just love their simple lines, pattern pieces that are architecturally perfect, and instructions that just cut to the chase and get you on with things smoothly and easily.

I love how Japanese patterns have you prepare the fiddly bits first. Think drawstrings, preparing bias bindings.

It means when you are constructing the garment you can just get on with things. I find most other pattern companies deal with those steps in the middle of construction. That always seem to be the stage where I lose interest and flow. You are seeing this garment come together and then you have to stop, put it down and go prepare those drawstrings.

Of course you could always just do those steps first anyway and ignore the instructions, but I tend to slavishly follow them and this genius has escaped me till now.

My first foray into Japanese patterns was my Dandelion Drift top, now on high rotation in my wardrobe. My inspiration for this dress was Gabrielle's Starry, Starry Gabby. My love for that dress knows no bounds. I dove into my pattern stash to see if anything might fit the bill and Sweet Dress Book's Pattern V (raglan sleeve), Design O, Tunic dress with draped hem jumped right off the page.

Fabric was another story as I had something particular in mind when shopping. But of course, when you really want something specific it alludes you at every turn. Like a good little sewer I gave up and decided not to purchase a very distant second. And I'm so glad I did as a few days later this gorgeous Japanese cotton poplin named Folk Art showed up.

I love the shape. It's not as determinedly flared as Gabrielle's Gabby Dress, but that is at least partly down to the gorgeous fabric Gabrielle used for her version. I like the draped effect of this dress on me - it's flattering and a bit different.

As P said, "It's not like anything you'd buy here in the shops... and I mean that in a good way". I'm glad he added that last bit as I was a bit concerned he was thankful it couldn't be bought!

I can definitely recommend this pattern book if you're wanting to try some Japanese patterns that avoid looking totally twee or sack-like.

But for now, I'm off to celebrate P's birthday with a lunch by the beach.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Just a little something I whipped up last week.

This is my version of Teach Me Fashion's Two-Tone Singlet. Who's singlet? That's what I thought. I stumbled across this pattern on some blog or other. I know, I know, that's terrible! I remember starting with a blog I follow and then linking on to someone else's, then someone else's, until I came across a recommendation to download the pattern. So I did. I feel dreadful that I can't remember who recommended it.

I'd never heard of "Teach me Fashion", but according to the site Teach me Fashion creates sewing patterns and instructional videos for the DIY fashion enthusiast and home sewer. We aim to revolutionize the craft of sewing and inspire current and future generations with our simple and elegant designs.

This pattern appears (at least currently) on their home page. To acquire it simply enter your e-mail address and huzzah it appears in your inbox.

I'm not sure exactly what appealed to me about this pattern. I obviously wasn't inspired by the recommended colour blocking. Colour blocking does nothing for me personally, but I did like the piecing of the bodice and I had a piece of poly satin in my stash that I wanted to practice on before cutting into some awesome digital print satin for another project. Let's just say I haven't sewn with slippery fabric since creating the monstrosity that was my Year 10 formal dress (satin, white lace, puffy sleeves, huge ruffles, yep the late 80's totally rocked!).

I took no notice of the fact there was an instructional video, I just didn't even realise it existed at first. The pattern comes with written instructions but let's just say, there ain't no teaching in those instructions. They're pretty dreadfully sparse and IMHO you would not be able to complete this garment if you hadn't had considerable experience with similar garments (especially sewing mitered corners and applying bias binding). Weird since they peg themselves as supporting the DIY sewer and are called "Teach me Fashion".

And some of the terminology used is just plain weird. For example, "neaten seam" is used to describe finishing the seam. The written instructions tell you to bind the neck and armholes with 4cm wide binding, which did not add up for me so I went ahead and used 3cm wide store-bought satin binding. When I discovered the instructional video upon writing this post and decided to watch it I note the video tells you to use 3cm binding. All in all the video construction steps do not match the written instructions at all, so if I was wanting to learn to sew a garment I'd be downright annoyed and frustrated.

On a positive note, I will say that all pieces came together with gorgeous accuracy, no easing required anywhere. And I'm really happy with the fit... except for the curiously tiny neckline which makes me feel inserting my head is like forcing a watermelon through the eye of a needle (remind you of something else?).

Anywho, I like my finished top!
The satin wasn't as hard to work with as I'd feared and cutting out was simple when using a cutting mat and rotary cutter and I'd definitely recommend using these for all slippery fabrics. I had some frustrations sewing the mitered corners on the bodice and the seam ripper got quite the workout, but we got there in the end.

Why "frustrated artist" top?

For a start, what from a distance resembles a jungle print, on closer inspection reveals itself as black paint splatters on a brown background. I love it. This is one of those fabrics I'd never have sought out but when I saw it on the clearance table I totally needed it. It's a bit urban after all!

Also I've been struggling for inspiration about what to sew lately. There are only so many garments any one girl can wear or wardrobe, and I just couldn't find any direction. Tres frustrating. Also I am currently carrying out my SBA with the assistance of Craftsy or lack of assistance as the case may be. I encountered some problems/need some clarification as my darts aren't behaving in quite the same way as the instructor's sample, but I can't get a response to my questions. I know it's been the festive season, but it's also been over a week since I posted my question and followed up. So that project in on hold.

But all's well that ends well and I have a top I feel I can dress up or down and fit wells. Yay me!

Pattern Changes/Alterations:
  • Cut a size XS for the bodice, then graded from an XS to a S through the bottom section
  • Added 1 inch to the length - I have a long torso
Lessons learned:
  • Slippery fabrics aren't as scary as you think
  • Store-bought bias binding is just sometimes easier
  • Not all pattern instructions are created equally... poor patterns

Friday, 10 January 2014

Are you going to be the architect of your own dreams?

The Wardrobe Architect

Upon waking this morning and finding this thread on my Bloglovin' feed I nearly combusted with excitement! Sarai, you have read my mind, seen my heart, understood my dilemmas. And it seems you are about to hold my hand and get me through building a wardrobe that truly reflects me. Sewing dreams do come true!

I have been struggling for inspiration for my sewing lately. I think we all lose our mojos from time to time, but it's not so much been about not wanting to sew, it's more about "what next?". I know that in my 2013 Reflections and Plans post I stated that my 2014 plan was to have no plans: for me this means no list of specific items to craft or skills to learn in 2014 that becomes ultimately menacing and anxiety provoking (yes, I'm a drama queen like that). But, I still need to have a good understanding of what's in my wardrobe, what items might be missing or may be completely out of step with who I am, and how I might approach my handcrafting to best fill the gaps and satisfy my creative urges.

This year it's going to be tougher than ever to find time to sew or knit. M is threatening to drop her day nap (I know, I know, I'm lucky she is still napping at the age of 3.5) and she is not a kid that has any capacity to amuse herself, I work, I'm going to start studying again (I know, what the hell am I thinking?) and I'm utterly useless after the sun goes down (no late night crafting sessions for me!). But my hands will still itch to create and so I need to make sure that every make is meaningful and will find a core place in my wardrobe. Importantly, I don't want to create just to have something to post about. My time is too limited and valuable for that!

I also don't have a limitless budget (or even a nice little plump one). Dudes, in most cases my items are made from fabrics I've picked up for the bargain basement price of under $10 a metre on the local Spotlight store (think Joanns in the USA) clearance table. Did I make you cringe? Alas, Tessuti will probably never see my dollar even though I am known to drool over their offerings. That being said, I don't want to get sucked in by the bargain fabric at the expense of sewing something that will truly reflect me and survive for longer than a season.

I also need to better see how items can be styled in more than one way to create entirely different, but true to style, looks. Seriously, the outfits you see posted on this here blog generally are the only way I wear those made items. Borrrrrrrrring.

So friends, do you have similar wardrobe dilemmas? Will you join me and what appears to be countless others in achitecting your own wardrobe? Or alternatively, have you already nailed this for yourself, you clever crafter, you?

Monday, 6 January 2014


I decided when M was approaching her first Xmas to make her a very special Xmas dress/outfit each and every year of her life. So this makes it dress number 4. And I did it! I made up for the horrid Xmas dress of last year. This, my friends, is one of my most favourite items I've sewn for Miss M.

This is my version of Figgy's Scirocco dress. I purchased this PDF pattern ages ago as part of the Sew Fab bundle of February 2013. In fact, this pattern may have been the main reason for purchasing the bundle!

I like my Xmas makes to have a Christmas vibe, but not be cheesily Christmas-y. This is a gorgeous quilting fabric featuring May Gibbs' illustrations of the ever-loved Gumnut Babies. I, for one, grew up on a diet of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books.

I love May Gibbs' illustrations. They are so quintessentially Australian, and at this time of year I always seem to be getting stuck in the bare feet by Eucalypt gumnuts. This fabric seemed quite fitting.

I used some pink vintage lace trim down the faux pleat at bodice front. Can you believe this is the first real embellishments I've applied to any of my makes? I usually like my items as unfussy as possible and often choose prints that do a lot of the work for the garment.

Yeah I know, somehow I managed to place a bare naked ass below my child's chin. But seriously, this baby sucked up the fabric and there was no such thing as flexibility for pattern placement.
I also lined the skirt with a gorgeous pale pink cotton voile used in last year's Xmas dress and refashioned from one of M's baby wraps. I tell ya, it's the wrap that keeps on giving.

The pattern is printed up on 12 A4 pages which isn't bad and was straightforward to tape up and cut. I trusted the pattern size measurements this time and cut a size 2/3 for widths and size 4/5 for all lengths for my 3.5yr old. A number of reviewers had warned the dress could be quite short and cutting the longer length worked just perfectly and the dress fits really nicely.

Instructions are clear with illustrations to support the text. The bodice back is a feat of engineering and I have to say the only stumbling block was trying to figure out the shoulder seam instructions. But I got there and I love the result.

I got to pull out my narrow rolled hem foot and am back in love with it. It sewed perfect hems on each gorgeous ruffle.

And as Miss M declared it's got a great skirt for swooshing...