Saturday, 31 December 2016

SEWN: THE ZIG-ZAG SUIT

This is a story about a suit. A suit of wonder. A swimsuit with mysteriously magical powers.


I never thought I'd experience the day when I would feel so supremely comfortable and amazingly confident in a swimsuit. Of any description.


Today, my friends, is that day.


Today I feel like I found the suit of my dreams. Made with my own hands.


A swimsuit that allows me to run Baywatch style down the beach without my swimsuit bottoms disappearing into my butt (TMI?). Let's be clear. I have a butt. A generous butt. And no swimsuit has ever stayed in place. This one does not move a millimetre.


This is a suit that let me stand in front of a sandstone wall at a busy beach and shine like a freakin' supernova for photographs. Boo-yeah!!!


Ok, enough self-adulation. Let's go with I feel quite pleased with myself and that's no mean feat. But you better believe you're gonna get photo overload.

This is 1970's era Butterick 5449, a Gil Aimbez design.

That middle chick is seriously saying "Get your hand of my shoulder. Now".
Image source

I originally saw this swimsuit made up by Sarai, founder of Colette patterns and decided I just. had. to. have. it. NOW! An ebay search led me straight to a copy available right here in Aus in my size. Yes, please!

Now in blogging her suit, Sarai did note that this pattern is sized for moderate stretch fabrics only and not the likes of modern nylon lycras. Sarai noted she removed about 4 inches from the hip and would probably grade the whole suit down in future makes.

I agree. I took the suit bottoms in a massive 6 inches at the waist and 2-3 inches at the hip. I might have even taken it in more in the final fitting, but that's what my toile shows. Yep, I had some dodgy lycra so decided to mock it up first. The final lycra behaved a little differently, but it was worth the exercise.

I also added 1cm to the length of the body at about the waistline. This added rise to the back waistline that I originally thought I could do without. But honestly I think it lends to the flattering rear visage.


I love the criss cross back. I love the zigs and zags of the swimsuit's lines.


Construction was challenging. I had to make it up as I went along. It took some zigging and zagging and eventually just going totally off piste. Sometimes you just gotta go with your gut and very limited swimsuit making experience. So if you're interested in the changes I made and the construction I undertook, read on fearless reader. If you just want to see my awesome suit then scroll down for more pretty pics.

I fully lined the suit (change no. 1). I think it lends the outer lycra good support assisting in its longevity and... modesty. Let's not forget modesty.

The pattern has you bind the edges of the upper triangles with bias binding. Um, no (change no. 2). I bound the edges with lycra wrapped black rubber elastic - basically how you'd apply exposed binding to a neckline. You lay the right side of the lycra "binding" to the right side of the swimsuit fabric edge with a strip of elastic on top. Stitch with a zig-zag stitch. Then turn binding to inside and topstitch. I used a three-step zigzag for the topstitch on all bindings. Looks great.

I also added extra thin bra cups tacked between lining and outer (change no. 3). These are purely for my own modesty and do not add oomph. Something I usually crave, but... suit of magical powers. And someone told me the iconic 70's look is flat-chested. Nailed it.


The outside edges of the suit are bound in the same way as the triangles and let me tell you that's one hell of a continuous bind of about 3m, as those edges extend into straps that are also bound elastic. The long straps cross the back, slip through rouleau loops at the outer corners of the top triangles, and then tie at the back. I did consider using a bikini clasp but decided to go with the ties for now as I quite like the visual. (Note: the edges are finished totally differently if following the pattern where elastic casings are formed and then elastic threaded through. Again, that would have suited the available materials at the time of drafting, but eventuated with change no. 4).




I did have some issues with the original line of the bottoms especially around said butt. As the fabric this is designed for has less stretch than the lycra I used, the line of the butt was a bit funky (not in a good way) and suited to almost creating a bloomer effect. Which kept happening every time I applied elastic - which was a million freaking times. Either that or the edge would flip up. I ended up hacking into that line and basically creating a straight line from outside hip to crotch (originally it's quite curved). Enter change no. 5. That sorted the butt fit.

The lovely Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn sorted out my elastic application issues, the darling woman. I love you, Carolyn! I'd used clear elastic before, but really wasn't happy with the feel or finish it gave. Carolyn advised me to use braided swimwear elastic, which is her preferred elastic. I was a bit reticent at first as all my previous RTW suits used rubber elastic. Spoiler. I tried that and failed and then finally succumbed and the braided worked perfectly and is supremely comfy. Win! Lesson? Always listen to Carolyn.

Changes for next time, because #obvious. There will be a next time and a next time and a next time. I'll reduce the size of the upper triangles on the upper outer edge. Too high under arm and a bit too much ease (Remember? Flat chested). Perhaps try the bikini clasp - but I do really like the look of the tie.

I used a perfectly perfect Zimmerman lycra for this suit and I have enough left for a do-over when this one eventually disintegrates.

Anywho. Behold the suit. I'm so sorry. I know there are a shiteload of images but... squee! It's a big deal to feel this goddess-like. Be nice now...






I wish you all a very happy and peaceful New Year. Please let 2017 be a year that does not have us all shaking our heads and asking why? I'm off for a swim in the frigid depths now...

Friday, 9 December 2016

SEWN: THE SHRINKING VIOLET

Sometimes I need to shrink my world.


Retreat for a while.


Focus on the things in front of me.


About a month ago I started to wobble. I felt overwhelmed and unable to face the world. It wasn't very pretty and there was a part of me that thought I was going a little mad.

No doubt this year has been tricky and there have been numerous challenges to maintaining a cheery facade. I'm exhausted by the effort of the facade.

So I shrunk my world. Withdrew myself from the Instagram behemoth for a start. A platform that can make you feel part of a community, but can also start to have an unhealthy influence upon your own perceptions of your validity.

How many likes did I get? How many comments?

I did not like how I felt or behaved in that world anymore. I did not like how my emotions were responding. Being part of the big bad social media world was hurting my heart. So I'm not there and I'm not sure when I'll be back again. And that's ok.


This dress was made a few weeks back when I was at my worst. I, unusually, didn't share any of its creation on IG. And it felt good to just focus on this small thing in front of me. To immerse myself in the joy of making for my own sake. And it was a joy.

This is vintage Simplicity 7454 made up beautifully by Rachel and Christy last summer.

Image source
I immediately loved the style even though it was a bit different from my normal short sack dress (long sack dress? LOL!). Christy was kind enough to send me her pattern to borrow. Complication? No instructions.

I actually revelled in figuring out how I would make it up. It let my mind truly immerse itself in the moment, to find it's own order and watch that puzzle slot together.

The fabric is a moderately heavy cotton from IKEA in a design by Inga Leo named Tigeröga.


It's probably designed for home furnishings as it appears as curtaining in the IKEA catalogue. But we know I have a thing for heavy, full-bodied fabrics so it's kinda my happy place.

I departed from the design features of the pattern on a few occasions. I did away with the centre back slit opening and the prescribed self-tie finish. Both Christy and Rachel had noted they had found no need for a slit to allow getting the dress on and off and I found the same.

I have no idea how the fantastic, side seam patch pockets are supposed to be inserted, but I kinda just went with it and I mean seriously, how cool are they?


A little camouflaged in this fabric, but really they're just there for me and my hands and pleasure anyway.

The back straps appear to be fixed by buttons (internal/hidden?) based on the paper pattern pieces, but I simply finagled their positioning between the facing and the bodice after trying it on with the bra it would be worn with and then sewing them in with the bodice/facing seam.



This is a straight size S (8-10) with a slightly deeper side seam taken from the top to about 10cm down. This is the midi length with a 1/2 inch hem to maintain as much length as possible.

And I love it. I love the length. It makes me feel vaguely more sophisticated and put together and it means I'm unlikely to flash my knickers at unsuspecting passersby when crouching/bending to deal with my little one.

It's swishy and cool and when not being blown wildly in the wind (ala these photos) has a lovely shape that nips in at the bust and waist and then flares to the hem.


And I'm aware these photos are less than perfection and that's ok too. I just wanted to share my dress.


I'm off to watch said little one graduate from her first year at big school. Where on earth has the time gone??

Friday, 28 October 2016

SEWN: OPPORTUNE BLUES

I am definitely a summer person.


A cold-blooded (not like a murderer, as in reptilian. Actually... that sounds bad too. Gah!), warm weather yearner.


A person for whom cold weather is to be grouchily, and very ungracefully, tolerated, until the darling buds of spring deign to rear their pretty heads again.


Whilst my naturally white as the driven snow skin might trick you into believing otherwise, I am a lover of the sun (but always slathered in SPF50. Sun safety and all that).


As soon as Spring started to show its warm rosy little head in Sydney a month ago I started to obsessively scheme warm weather making. Are you motivated to make by specific seasons? My desire to sew is nowhere near as great in the colder months.

So how very opportune that I was walking past a local opp shop one day and just happened to stumble across the motherlode of all vintage frock pattern motherlodes??


And that's not all of them! All in my size! All of them!! From the era that makes my heart sing!! The angels sang and I snapped those babies up quicker than I could growl come anyway near me and this amazing basket of patterns and risk certain injury.

I adore Style patterns. No other pattern range draws me to their designs quite like Style patterns - at least those of the 70's. But, like most Big 4 patterns I have significant problems with ease and the need for copious adjustments (unlike my beloved Japanese patterns). I usually pick size 12 to try and hover somewhere between my bust and hips measurements which vary at least a size either side. But this bundle included some Size 10's. Including this one, my absolute favourite...



View 2. Oh view 2, how much I love thee. It could be the stripes. I didn't do stripes. Maybe next time.

With the loose skirt my hips could happily be accommodated. I did toile the bodice to make sure the fit wasn't too horrendous and lo and behold it fit pretty much perfectly!

Now fabric... can there be any doubt? I am a lover of indigo denim. A big fat sucker for indigo denim. If I could wear nothing else for the rest of my livelong days I'd be a pig in mud.

Happily I had a piece of mid-weight indigo denim in my stash purchased long ago for another make where I wrongly estimated yardage needs. Happy days!

I'm actually amazed and delighted that the fit is pretty much spot on sewn exactly as drafted. A definite first for me!

For next time (oh yes I'm fairly sure there will be a next time), however, I will move the dart point down a little as it definitely sits too high on my bust (didn't detect that at the toile stage). I think I have also hoiked the bodice higher than average as I don't like a deep V neck on me. Bony chest, so attractive.

With some judiciously placed topstitching I had just the right denim jeans type feel I was after. After polling IG I decided to sew the front straps down with blue thread (against all advice) as I didn't want to overdo the jeans look. I'm really happy with it as it's largely camouflaged and a clean finish.


I also had in my stash this amazing piece of crochet, also sourced years ago from an opp shop. As soon as I stumbled upon it again in a stash dive, I realised it was almost perfectly sized for a large patch pocket. And wow, how amazing it looked against the indigo denim.


The topstitching extended to straps and pockets. I even carefully topstitched down the denim of the crochet covered pocket as I'm not sure how long I'll keep the crochet on and wanted the option of taking it off.


I do notice that there is a very small amount of gaping at centre back. I have got a hook and eye above the zipper, but it's also likely that I needed to nip it in slightly at the side-seams. I just didn't want it to be too constrictive, but then you get that annoying slight gape, especially with crossed straps.



It's quite a different look for me. I am a lover of minis. But I was so inspired by the gorgeous midi-length frocks Lisa of Tessuti and Rachel of Boo Dogg and Me were churning out, I had to have one for my very own. And the length is awesome! I can bend down to deal with a small child and not flash my knickers! Win! Why didn't anyone tell me??

I also used my new-to-me Singer 201P (same as 201K) to sew this frock and that baby sewed through layers of denim like it was tissue paper. 

And because any blog post would be incomplete without posing yet again in my one and only photo location, here's a last shot. I wouldn't want you to think I was going to start getting all clever with finding new locations of anything.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

LEATHERWORKED: SPRING SLING

I bought the most marvelous leather hide over a year ago.


Burnished to a beautiful hue - neither gold, nor bronze, nor pewter or platinum.


But somehow a magical mix of all, straying to one hue or another in different lights and with various backgrounds.

Magical perfection.


And LARGE! So far I have made a clutch, sandals and this latest bag and I still have plenty left!

I had been dreaming of making a supersized tote out of this leather. I even stalked my neighbour's RTW tote, whose design lines and seaming intrigued me no end. I borrowed it and took photo after photo of all the details. But I just couldn't figure out how I'd achieve all the exposed seams and a similar pattern was not forthcoming.

And so my hide languished, occasionally brought out to be stroked and yearned over.

Then at the library last week, I stumbled across this book...


And lo and behold as I flicked through it's lovely projects, I saw this awesome sling bag...


And the decision was made. It's big, it's interesting, but still simple and stylish.


This make wasn't without swear words. Whilst the outside of this hide slides beautifully through the feed dogs of my Janome, the insides... oh my, the insides.


You see this beauty has a black heart. Literally. The backing of the hide has been dyed a very heavy black and the suede tends to flake off and get on everything. My Janome was not pleased or enamoured. Oh no, she spluttered and misstepped and basically told that leather to get the hell off her.

But I am nothing if not completely single-minded and bullish and I forced that baby through. I might want to consider a leather foot or walking foot for future leather projects, I know.


The topstitching was dicey to say the least. The bag is formed from four pieces, with the front and back composed of two pieces joined in the centre, with the handle cut on and seamed at the top. Those seams are sewn as normal with right sides together, then the seam allowances finger pressed open and topstitched down from the right side.


I used a size 16 leather needle and regular polyester thread to start, but realised the thread broke very easily which alarmed me (wasn't my regular Gutermann, let's just say that). So I switched to upholstery thread (which I used on my clutch) which I do think is great for leather sewn on a machine. It's strong and I think it's weight is more visually appealing on anything above garment weight leather when the stitching is exposed.


Side and bottom seams are not pressed open or topstitched.

Needless to say I am ecstatic with the result and see myself getting bucketloads of use out of this. It's truly a statement bag and since metallics are my neutrals it'll go with pretty much my entire wardrobe... especially those lace ups...


Stay tuned to see my next pair of leather sandals which are in progress. Just waiting for an awesome water-based (non-toxic, yippee!) glue to arrive.