Sunday, 28 June 2015

So, I've been busily sewing....

At the risk of sounding like a trashy 1980s style souvenir t-shirt (you know the ones: my grandma went to Singapore and all I got was this lousy t-shirt), but I have to say it: I've been sewing like a crazy woman and all I've got to show for it is a few lousy blog photos because it's all for other people!

My daughter's school held its annual fete recently which took an enormous amount of time and effort before the day in terms of organising, selling raffle tickets let alone on the actual day. I was the stall co-ordinator for my daughter's class, and we were allocated the second hand clothing stall so I spent about 3 months lugging home bags of donated clothes from school to sort, wash and store in a large pile in my sewing room. The fete was a huge success though - we made nearly $60,000 and my stall made nearly $900 which is a great result and will go towards installing air conditioning in all our classrooms, upgrading computers and replenishing the library. All things you would think the government would provide (it's a public school) but they don't.

Being a little too quick to volunteer my sewing talents, I ended up hemming tablecloths, making drawstring bags and sewing bunting. Oh the bunting! It took way longer to make than I could ever have imagined:

fabric bunting

fabric bunting

fabric bunting

That's about 70 metres of bunting altogether. The actual sewing of triangles to the bias tape wasn't the longest bit, but cutting out all those triangles and sewing them together took many, many hours. Luckily it looked great, we can reuse it next year and all the fabric I used from stash to make it (about 8m) has now balanced out a recent on-line fabric purchase binge!

Next up I offered to make Anna and her friends matching t-shirts for the sports carnival that was scheduled for last Thursday. Her school decided to have a retro themed sports carnival (in the early years it's all about fun and not competition) so I thought a 1970s style raglan t-shirt worn with some sweatbands would be extremely funny in a cute way. Unfortunately the sports carnival was postponed until mid July due to bad weather, but I did finish all these t-shirts:

1970s style raglan sleeve sports t-shirt

I used Kwik Sew 2893 (now OOP) which is just a basic tshirt pattern but is drafted really well (all the notches lined up and the pattern piece for the neckband was spot on) and the sizing of the pattern is quite accurate which in itself is somewhat amazing for a child sewing pattern. I made sizes small and medium for 6 and 7 year old kids and all the tshirts fit very well.

I thought the curved hems, and contrasting sleeves and neckbinding were very retro. The different colours are for their different teams. The lettering on the front is made from iron on transfer paper and each t-shirt has their name and year of birth which the kids thought was very cool so the effort was worth it, even if I ended up making these really quickly for no reason.

Finally I had to make an emergency pair of pyjamas for Anna. Anna's school was holding a wear your pyjamas to school day to raise money for some good cause, and it wasn't until the night before that I realised that Anna has had a spectacular growth spurt and all of her pyjamas were way too short. And here's where the value of having a large stash of fabrics and patterns really proves it worth: I was able to dig out a lovely soft piece of pink check flannelette and some textured knit (like the fabric used for spencers) and made a simple pair of pants and raglan tee using the same Kwik Sew pattern again since it was still out on my cutting table:

pink check flannelette pyjamas and white knit raglan top

Pyjama disaster averted, more fabric used from the stash and all done in about the same amount of time it would have taken me to to get to the shops!

So now that's all over and done with, I can get back to my regular sewing projects. I have a blazer for myself about 85% done which I want to finish very soon and I do need to get cracking on my June and July Burda projects because if I let that get too far behind I'm sure I'll never catch up again. Hopefully I have something more exciting to share next time I post

Monday, 1 June 2015

Simplicity 1467: from 15 year old UFO to wearable muslin

After my disappointment with the fit of the blue jacket from a few posts back (which I've pulled apart but haven't finished yet) I decided the wise thing would be to make muslins for jacket patterns at the very least, even if I continue being lazy towards other projects. Ironically this one needed only a few minor tweaks for it to turn out to be very wearable, and it's made from a very old UFO so it's a winner all round!

Jacket - Simplicity 1460, Skirt Burda 9/2013 #130, Top Vogue 1826
A bit of back story: I started making a knee length princess seamed coat from this fabric to wear to the horse races one spring Saturday back in 2000ish. In the tradition of all projects destined to fail, I started making this a few days before it was needed and once the occasion passed without the jacket finished in time all motivation was lost and it has sat in my UFO box ever since. I was using one of those multi sized New Look patterns and didn't realise I had cut a size 22 for the side pieces and a size 8 for the rest until I had sewn and overlocked the seams - unpicking the seams in a loose woven fabric like this just was not appealing so it didn't get done! And then I realised I would probably never wear a knee length coat in this fabric, it would be just too much pink for me so as a result it never got finished but yet I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.

So here we are 15 years later, I wanted to make a muslin of Simplicity 1467 because there are no pattern reviews of the jacket pattern and I decided to cut into this sad, half made project because it closely resembled the final fabric I wanted to use. The fabric is a poly wool tweed, certainly not expensive but still quite pretty and deserving of a second chance at becoming a finished project.

image from Simplicity
First version - aside from making full length sleeves and my usual narrow shoulder adjustment I made the pattern exactly as per the envelope. No photos of this version (I sew late at night) but let me just say that the gathers at the centre back in this lofty and thick fabric gave me a bit of a Kim Kardashian bubble butt look - aka not good! I also had a bit of extra fabric along the princess seam at the bust line.

Second version - I changed the gathers at the centre back into an inverted pleat to get it to sit a bit flatter and I flattened the curve of the princess seam on the side front pieces (basically a small bust adjustment). I thought at this stage it was pretty good, until I took some photos of it! Uneven hem:

Gathers at the side sticking out:

And that pleat at the back was not such a good idea after all:

Verdict: out came the unpicker once again!

Third and final version: I recut the peplum pieces to take out the excess fabric so the jacket sits smoothly all around the waistline now. I let down the hem as much as I could so it has barely a 1cm hem now but because I had clipped the corners of the yoke at the bottom centre fronts I couldn't let the hem down there, so I cut off the yoke at the waist and continued the peplum to the centre front. So basically the final version looks quite different from the original pattern.

Final thoughts - I really like this jacket so it was worth the effort in the end. In fact I like this version so much I decided not to make a version from the fabric I had intended to use which is a white textured wool because I figure two winter weight jackets from this pattern might be a little too much since it's rather distinctive.

But I will make this pattern again in spring or summer in a lightweight fabric - in a future version I'll leave off the gathers at the back because I really don't need any extra fabric in that particular spot. I'll also put separating zipper down the front because not having a closure annoys me - the fronts never sit evenly and it makes the hem look rather uneven although they are straight. I'll also lengthen the peplum so I can make a decent hem on the jacket.  

And that's one less UFO in my big box of shamefully unfinished projects and one more finished garment.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Vintage Vogue 6056: Houndstooth top

What an awful saying "killing two birds with one stone" really is when you break it down. I was trying to explain to Anna the figurative meaning of the saying, but being 6 years old she couldn't quite get past the literal meaning. But why mummy? You said we should never hurt animals. Why would you want to kill a bird with a stone? Ahh, to be six years old again with such an innocent outlook on things!

So let me try this in a PC way: my latest project achieved multiple outcomes whilst utilising a streamlined approach to achieve maximum efficiencies (I have told you I work for the government right? We excel at jargon like this!). Not only did I end up with a lovely top to wear, but I also used up two separate pieces of scrap fabric and used a previously unused vintage pattern from my rather large stash. A win any way you say it!

 After I made the Simplicity dress in the last post, I had a large-ish bit and some odd shaped bits left over of the houndstooth fabric. Keeping in mind my recently self imposed rule of trying to use up fabric scraps in a meaningful way rather than hoard them, I decided to make this quick top instead of tidying up my sewing room after the dress project (which is my other recently self imposed rule!).

I used a 1960s era Vogue pattern (Vogue 6056), which was one of the patterns I got in my massive pattern haul in January:

I paired this fabric with some black knit fabric leftover from long ago project, because I didn't have enough of either fabrics but together I managed to eek out this top, albeit with shorter sleeves than the pattern is designed for.

It seems that practically every pattern company these days has a raglan pattern but what I like about this vintage Vogue pattern is that it has a bust dart to give some subtle shaping whilst still being a boxy, casual style.

The pattern was designed for woven fabrics, and has a front and back facing at the neckline which I substituted with a neckband since I was using a knit fabric. It's a one piece raglan sleeve, with a shoulder dart to give a bit of shaping which seems to sit well enough on my narrow, sloping shoulders.

Overall it was a super quick and easy top to make, but is great for my more casual days and it means more fabric out of my sewing room and into my wardrobe.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Dress Up Party: Simplicity 2724 review

Something a little different from me today - I'm participating in a 'Dress Up Party' hosted by Sara over at Sew Sweetness and have written a guest post reviewing Simplicity 2724. This is a great dress which has been made by lots of talented sewers, but for some reason it's now OOP. If you have this in your stash I can highly recommend making it up. I've made my version in an emerald green cotton for the bodice and a black and white mini houndstooth wool for the skirt.

It was fortunate that I had this commitment to meet because it forced me to finish this dress - I had a hugely productive sewing weekend away a few weeks ago but lately my life has been a black hole of busyness, sickness and a stint of solo parenting which has been hugely draining on my sewing mojo and I haven't had the energy (or time) to get much done. Hopefully this can get me back on track - so many things to sew and so little time!

image via Pattern Review

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Burda of the Month: 4/2015 #137 - a miniature French style jacket

I struggled a bit with picking out a pattern to make from the April issue of the Burda Style magazine - there isn't much in there that jumped out as needing to be in my wardrobe. I contemplated making a wrap shirt dress (4/2015 #122), but when Burda themselves describe a pattern as having a "plunging neckline" you just know it's going to need a lot of work to make it decent! So I've taken the easy option this month and made a simple jacket for Anna instead:

This pattern is 4/2015 #137, which is described as a short spring jacket:

I quite like the version Burda made up for the magazine using a jacquard and bead trim, but since we are about to enter winter and are having some wild and windy weather I used a length of wool coating that I picked up in a op shop for $4 some years ago. The fabric has a wonderful feel to it, not at all scratchy but soft with enough body for a jacket, however it's all a bit too much pink for me to wear. A jacket for a young lady though is a perfect use for it.

This pattern is really simple, as it has no closures, those pockets are fake and it's designed to have the edges bound in bias binding so there are no facings or linings.  Because I used a wool fabric I chose to line it, using a pink lining also from an op shop purchase and a long time stash resident. I cut out the lining from the pattern pieces and lined the jacket to the edge.

I changed the pattern slightly by adding length to the body of the jacket and the sleeves - it's a bit too cold for three quarter sleeves at the moment. I also added patch pockets to the front because everyone needs functional pockets, especially a six year old!

The trim is not only the most expensive part of the jacket (the only component bought new and not from the stash) but was the most time consuming part because I hand sewed it to the neck edges and pockets. I found it really hard to pick out a trim, mainly because I'm terrible at picking out complementary trims but also because they all seemed a bit too grown up for a child's jacket. In the end the trim I used is mostly pink but it has some rainbow sparkle to it which Anna loves so that was a good choice.

I used sized 120 for the body (technically Anna is closer to a size 128), but I think the body is overall a little large and particularly at the back there is quite a bit of volume although it seems pretty good around the shoulders. I'm not sure what happened at the hem line because it definitely seems to curve up from the front - probably sloppy drafting on my part when I was making the pattern!

The fabric had stretched out of shape a bit and those white lines were slightly off grain, but I tried to steam it back into shape the best I could and match them up as much as possible. I cut the pieces out on a single layer to get those plaids to match up, which I think I did a pretty good job:

And overall the recipient is happy which is what counts and hopefully means that she will indeed wear it. Everyone who has sewn for a child knows that it is never guaranteed that something you make for them will actually be worn!

Final thoughts - a simple pattern that is quick and easy to make with infinite variations with fabric and trim choices. A lovely French style jacket for the budding fashionista!

Friday, 17 April 2015

McCalls 5815: brilliant blue jacket

This latest finished project of mine was such a hard journey, and I'm so pleased I've finally finished it. Let me introduce McCalls 5815 in a brilliant blue colour:

This is the Nanette Lepore bow-collar jacket knock-off, although obviously I've made the view without the bow, which is now OOP:
McCalls 5185
This pattern was given to me by my sewing friend Sandra back in January and it's exactly what I love in a tailored jacket - a fitted silhouette with an interesting collar. Plus it is in size 4 - 12 so I thought I'd get it to fit across my narrow shoulders pretty well. Plenty of others have had success with this pattern and raved about the fit, so I just rashly jumped in and made it. I haven't made too many McCalls patterns so I'm not as familiar with their fit as I am with say a Burda pattern, so I should have made a muslin rather than just rely on a flat pattern measure check because there are a few things that haven't turned out too well and I need to muster up the energy to fix.

Firstly, those sleeves! This pattern has the most ridiculous sleeves I've ever seen - they are super long and super wide, which is obvious from the line drawing. I figured I could narrow them after I had sewn them up, but that didn't quite work because the seam line runs from the shoulder seam down the centre of the arm instead of towards the back like a traditional two piece sleeve. Because of my forward shoulders it meant that seam was really obvious and didn't hang straight at all.

So I dashed off to the Fabric Store to buy some more fabric and I cut a traditional two piece sleeve from another McCalls pattern. They still aren't great, I can see from the photo above that they are still a bit too baggy and I could take them in slightly more. There's also some wrinkling going on, partly because of the linen fabric (which can't be helped) but also partly because I'm not very good at altering the sleeve cap to match the forward shoulder adjustment I do to the armscye- more practice is needed there I think.

The second issue I have is with the fit - it looks too big especially around the bust along the princess seam and possibly at the hip because the bottom juts out a bit. I cut a size 6 at the top, grading out to a size 10 at the bottom because I didn't want it to be too tight since it is a jacket meant to be worn over other clothes. But you can see from the photo above and the one below that I should take in a bit more along the princess seams.

The back could also use a bit more of a sway back adjustment as well I think, to get rid of those wrinkles. And I also need to move that bottom button lower, but that's an easy fix compared to the rest.

Ok enough of the bad, I really love the key feature of this jacket: that large, pleated collar:

It's absolutely ginormous, but I think shawl collars are quite feminine and I love that pleat at the back of the neck which gives the collar shape around the front too. And to veer back to the critical again, I should have graded the collar seams better because they show through a bit too much for my liking.

Some other notes: I left off the draped pockets because my fabric, a stretch linen bought from The Fabric Store in January during their sale, was way too stiff and the pocket didn't drape but rather just gaped open. I don't tend to use pockets in jackets so I left them off. I also left off the fabric rose from the collar as well because I thought it looked a bit silly, and because I have an extensive brooch collection that I prefer to wear than a rolled up bit of fabric.

The jacket is fully lined in a stripy blue acetate lining that has been in the stash for years. Normally I use plain lining fabrics that closely match the outer fabric, so this is a bit of a departure for me:

I'm wearing it with a black pencil skirt that I made in February and didn't post because it was too boring to justify a post of its own. It's made from Burda 1/2011 #112 which has a wide waistband that I have substantially modified (see this post):

The fabric is what makes this skirt a little bit special - it is a textured polyester with raised hexagons that I bought also in January from Tessuti during their sale. It was a remnant, so this skirt cost me a grand total of $10.75, since I already had the lining in the stash and the zipper is recycled from another skirt.

So overall, I really like this jacket but I do need to do more fitting work on those sleeves and princess seams. Of course had I made a muslin I would have discovered this before making the final version. I can recommend this pattern to anyone who has this pattern (since it's OOP) and wants a feminine jacket but really think about using some different sleeves! I probably won't make this jacket again because it's such a distinctive look, but it will make a great addition to my corporate wardrobe.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

March Burda of the Month: 03/2015 #118 piped seam dress in lovely Liberty fabric

Once again I'm posting my monthly Burda project late although I did actually finish sewing it in March so I squeaked it in. I had no excuses either since the issue arrived in my letter box in the first few days of March, but I did have to think hard about what to make (there wasn't that much that excited me in this issue), and I made a muslin as well so that's almost like making it twice.

Here's my finished project:

I made the dress with piped seams (03/2015 #118), which looks like this:

This is a petite sized pattern (Burda sizes 17-21) so I thought it would be wise to make a muslin just to make sure that the wide waist panel actually sat at my waistline and below my bustline.  I graded from a size 17 for the bodice, and then out to a size 20 for the waist panel and skirt, so a muslin was needed to make sure I blended the sizes properly. I don't often make muslins, so here is photographic proof that sometimes I am sensible!

You can see in the above photo that I did take out a bit of width at the waist and top of the skirt line, which is to be expected when I was trying to grade between 3 sizes. But the waistband hit the right spot on me, so lengthwise the bodice was fine.

The gathers below the bust and at the waistline aren't particularly visible due to the fabric I have used, but they do give a nice shape to the front without adding too much volume:

Speaking of the fabric, this is a lovely Liberty print in a mid weight cotton that has been in my stash for years. I'm not even sure where it came from but I think this is the perfect pattern to finally use it - I suffer from decision making paralysis when it comes to beautiful fabrics far too often. The red piping I used is slightly too bright to match the red in the fabric but I couldn't find a better match and I think it looks ok anyway.

I have to share a back view for no reason other than to show off my matching of the piping at the centre back invisible zip - getting these to match up can be so frustrating sometimes but this time it just worked out so well.

So it wouldn't be a Burda post without some complaint about the instructions,would it? So here goes: the instructions are extremely unclear about the hem bands on both the skirt and sleeves. In the magazine there is a short version (a lacey wedding dress for the 'confident bride') which is minus the hem band and this longer version which has the hem band, so you would naturally assume that the longer version merely has the hem band sewn on to the bottom of the skirt. But when I made the muslin I discovered that the skirt without the hem band was the perfect length. The pattern indicates a placement line marked for the piping but it doesn't say cutting line. The instructions aren't too clear either - it seems to suggest that you sew the piping in place along the marked placement line and then sew on the hem bands so that the hem bands are doubled layered. It was all very baffling but I'm glad I made a muslin so that I didn't waste any of my precious Liberty fabric.

Anyway, long story short - if you are of normal height and plan to make this dress with the piping around the bottom make sure you check the skirt length! When I made my muslin I didn't make the sleeves, so it wasn't until after I had sewn the sleeves on that I realised that they were also too long to add the piping and hem band, so I've left it as is. Doesn't look too out of proportion to me, so I can live with it.

I probably should have made the muslin with the sleeves set in though, because they are a little tight across the upper arms - the dress is still wearable and not overly tight, but it is a close fit and you can see some drag lines around the arms:

Since I am human and not a perfectionist, I was a tad bit lazy and didn't line the dress or put the buttons and loops at the top of the zip at the centre back. I merely topstitched the piping down around the neckline and sleeves to stop the piping flipping out, and I made the invisible zip as usual (I did add a hook and eye to the top of the zip after taking this photograph though!). It looks messy inside but it's ok on the outside and that's all that counts to me.

So overall I really like this pattern - it was well fitting for me without any major or unexpected fitting changes required apart from the length issue and is quite flattering I think for my pear shape with its a-line skirt shape and emphasis on the waistline. I'm thinking about making making this pattern in a solid colour for a work dress, because as much as I love this Liberty fabric it's a little too twee and sweet for my work wardrobe.

Finally, check out this photo of Toby - he's recently had his third birthday and already he's more than half my height! I am definitely going to be the shortest person in my family in only a few short years I think.