Monday, 18 April 2016

Thanks everyone for all your lovely comments on the last post - that project clearly struck a chord with many of you because it's been a while since I've received so many comments!

To prove that it's not all sewing dresses for me around these parts, I thought I should post this year's birthday shirt and dress made for my kids on their respective birthdays. I cannot believe that this year Toby turned 4 and Anna turned 7 - I'm some of you long time readers will remember a time before I even had any kids. Clearly I've been blogging for way too long.....

This year I let Toby pick the fabric for his shirt while we were shopping at the Remnant Warehouse a few weeks back and he picked out a pirate print cotton - such a typical boy!

Burda 09/2015 #139 boys pirate shirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I used Burda 09/2015 #139:
Burda 09/2015 #139 boys pirate shirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com
This shirt is a miniature man's shirt, complete with opening sleeve placket and pleated sleeves, which made it a little fiddly to make but it is a cute style. I left off the welt pocket at the front because I didn't think it would be that noticeable in this busy print. Instead of buttons I used plastic snaps so that he could get the shirt on and off himself.

Burda 09/2015 #139 boys pirate shirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Size wise I found the pattern to run a little large, but in kids that grow quickly I guess that's a good thing but it was still a little bit of a surprise since I've found that Burda's kids patterns are usually spot on. Toby's measurements matched those for size 104 perfectly and it fits him well around the body but the sleeves and the shirt seem a bit long.

But it certainly doesn't stop him hamming it up for the camera:

Burda 09/2015 #139 boys pirate shirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

For Anna's birthday dress (made back in January), I used Burda 08/2014 #147:

Burda 08/2014 #147 striped girl dress www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

This is a super simple pattern - essentially just a rectangle, that I simplified even further by leaving off those ruffle sleeves and the ribbon tie waist - apparently 7 years old is too old for those features! And she wanted this dress shorter, which given that the main reason that I sew her dresses is because she's too tall for RTW dresses there was no chance of that. She is definitely growing up too fast for my liking.

Burda 08/2014 #147 striped girl dress www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Burda 08/2014 #147 striped girl dress www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I used a rayon fabric bought from Spotlight quite a while ago, and sewed on some mini pom pom trim around the neckline to jazz it up a little. I also replaced the ribbon at the waistline with some elastic instead. That gap-toothed smile seems to indicate that she's pretty happy with it!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Castaway to Couture - my grey skirt makeover

The Australian Sewing Guild is once again running a competition called 'Castaway to Couture' which requires entrants to refashion an existing garment into something new. The first prize is a Brother embroidery sewing machine, so if you are an Australian or New Zealand sewer you should definitely consider entering - you've still got until the 31st May so plenty of time. And if you're not going to enter yourself, well then - you should vote for me!!

I don't often bother with refashions since I have such a huge stash and refashions generally take much more time and effort, but the competition was enough incentive for me to finally getting around to doing something with this wool skirt I bought at a garage sale a few years ago for $5. This is what I came up with:
New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I've wanted to do something with this skirt for a long time because the fabric is so lovely. This is an Adam Bennett number, probably from the 1980s, and is made from pure wool. It was deeply pleated , but on me was too big and too long. It was really heavy too, due to how much material was in it.


Originally I planned to keep it as a skirt and make it smaller to fit, but I couldn't just chop a bit off the bottom because it would lose the proportions of the stripes, and I couldn't just take it in at the sides either because it was just one long piece with just one side seam.

The first thing that was required to was to get rid of those pleats. What a lot of work that was! If I didn't like this fabric so much I would have given up and just used one of the many perfectly good pieces of fabric in my collection.

I washed and soaked the fabric many times, and I pressed and pressed and pressed. I used the method Claire Schaeffer describes in her book Fabric Sewing Guide of placing on the fabric some brown paper that has been soaked with a 50/50 vinegar and water mix and pressing it with a hot iron until the paper is dry. It worked wonders at getting the creases out, but that vinegar smell sure did give me a craving for some fish and chips! The vinegar smell goes away though when the fabric dries. Here is the fabric after washing and soaking but before pressing:


And here is the fabric after pressing a few times with the brown paper and vinegar method:


The fabric feels very flat and smooth, but what I hadn't counted on though is that a visible line would remain along the edge of the pleats despite all the washing. You can faintly see in the photo above the visible vertical lines - I've just decided that it is a design feature, and that the fabric has vertical self stripes in addition to the horizontal coloured stripes!

These photos don't really show the vertical lines at all, but in the daylight they are quite noticeable.  The lines are evenly spaced across the front, and I managed to line them up on the bodice and the skirt, so hopefully everyone else just accepts it as a deliberate feature.

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I used my favourite sheath dress pattern, New Look 6968, which I've used many times before with great success (see here, here, here, here and here!).  Funnily enough one of those previous versions was a refashion too - obviously the simple lines of this pattern and the small amount of fabric needed are perfect for refashioning.

I kept the hem of the original skirt, and managed to cut the skirt and the bodice out of the width of former skirt because it really was a very full skirt. The spacing between the stripes worked out pretty well when I wear it with a belt:

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Without a belt at the waistline however it looks a bit plain and the proportion is a bit off there in the centre, as the stripe on the skirt is too far below the waistline:

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

There were a lot of stripes to match at the side seams and the centre back invisible zip, but with a lot of pinning and careful sewing I think I managed to get a pretty good match at all stripes, even the one interrupted by the dart at the bust line:

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The reason I love this New Look pattern so much is that it has a waist seam with a separate bodice and skirt which means I can get such a good fit in the small of my back thanks to the waist seam and the darts. I find that putting darts into a single back piece never gets a close fit in my swayback as this style does.

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

There's not much more I can say about this pattern that I haven't said before - it's a great basic pattern that is quite simple to sew. I made this one a size larger than previous versions I've made because this fabric has no stretch and those previous versions are all a little bit tight now (they must be shrinking while hanging in my wardrobe, I'm sure!). This size is really comfortable to wear, but there is a bit of looseness around the bust and below the waist, but I think a bit of ease is necessary in a form fitting dress with no stretch.

I've fully lined this dress in some lining that has been in the stash a long time, and even used an invisible zipper that was salvaged from another garment, so this really was a cheap project to make. Unfortunately this project doesn't make any dent in my huge fabric collection at all, but it's certainly a great addition to my wardrobe.

So as I said at the beginning, the competition is open until the 31st May and I really encourage fellow Australians and New Zealanders to enter - who wouldn't want a fancy embroidery sewing machine or any of the other great prizes on offer?

Monday, 28 March 2016

Burda of the month: 3/2016 #125 retro dress

I am absolutely killing my Burda challenge this year - three projects made from the magazines in the month of their issue and I like them all (so far, I could be tempting fate by typing this though!). My blogging not so much though, I just can't seem to find the words when I sit down to do a post, but here we go.

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Despite this issue being full of bridal clothes and children's holy communion outfits (neither of which I have any use for at the moment), there were a few patterns in this issue I really liked.  For this project I went with 3/2016 #125 which is described as a retro cocktail dress, and is part of the bridal collection as a bridesmaids dress.

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com
Image via Burda Style
I made it less "cocktail party" and more "day dress suitable for work" by making it in a linen/cotton blend I bought last December from the Remnant Warehouse, and I used a piece of cotton sateen for the collar for contrast. The lines are irregular, which I figured meant I could get away with minimal pattern matching!

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

However, because of my fabric choice those seam lines at the back and the princess seams on the front are barely visible at all. Which is a pity because I really like how the seams on the bodice line up with the pleats on the skirt - I love that sort of symmetry:

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The Burda recommended materials are "thick dress material with stand" which I assume means materials with some body. Their version though looks to be made from a draped, shiny fabric with no body given the way it hangs and the collar droops. However my fabric had enough thickness for the skirt to get a fullness about it without being too costume-y:

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The skirt has an inverted box pleat at the centre front, and then some deep pleats at either side on the front and the back, so there's quite a lot of material. I've sewn the pleats down for about 10cm from the waistline so it's a trim fit around the waist before flaring out.

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I'm not prone to twirling myself, but if that's your thing then this is the pattern for you:

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I used a cotton sateen which was interfaced for the collar so that it would stand up, in a plain black colour for a bit of contrast. The collar is literally a long narrow rectangle cut on the straight grain, so it's not designed to curve but to stand up. It does feel like it is gaping wide open (which it is), so it is taking a little bit to get used to when I'm wearing it.

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

As usual the Burda instructions are hugely confusing and I mostly ignored them for the sake of my sanity. The bodice is intended to be fully lined, and it seems the instructions are suggesting sewing the invisible zip on top of the fabric and lining all the way to the top edge of the collar which would mean the zipper tape is visible. I chose not to line my bodice since my fabric is quite substantial, and I sewed the zipper to the top of the dress and used a hook and eye to keep the collar together instead. The zipper and collar looks messy on the inside, but it's ok from the outside and that's all that counts. I drafted some facings for the sleeve edges which are just hand sewn down - I couldn't just use bias tape because the sleeve edge has a distinctive L shape to it.

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The dress looks ok worn without a belt, I just think it looked a little blah without any colour or waist definition:

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Burda 3/2016 #125 black and white stripe dress with full skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

So overall I really like this pattern, but I do find the bodice to be a little big. I had to grade down from  a size from a size 36 and it still feels roomy which I thought was just my dodgy grading skills (which they are) but I can see from the Burda version that even on the model it looks too big with a bit of gathering across the front. I think it's also drafted a little high waisted which suited me because I usually shorten my bodices by 1.5cm but this one sat just right without any changes. Just a few things to be aware of if you are intending to try this pattern - but otherwise I can highly recommend this pattern.

Thankfully we are having a very warm start to our Autumn, so I'm sure I'll get a few wears from this dress before it's time to get out the winter gear.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Bright green for attention!

A few of my work colleagues know that I sew my own clothes, so I often get comments from them like: "did you make that? Looks great". But it's not often that random strangers ever ask or compliment me on something I'm wearing - I am told by my friends that I posses an excellent resting bitch face, so I guess I don't encourage interaction! But I've worn this outfit twice in the last two weeks and both times some has complimented me on the skirt. I guess I stand out in a sea of sensible clothes maybe?

Burda 8/2016 #120 black drape top green plaid skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The skirt fabric is a lightweight wool fabric bought from the Fabric Cave late last year when I was dropping off a donation of fabric. There was almost 3 metres of it for the bargain price of $8, so I have plenty left to make something else. Maybe a matching jacket so I'll have the perfect outfit for next St Patrick's Day.....

The skirt is nothing special, just a simple lined pencil skirt with a kick pleat at the back which I made from an old Vogue Michael Kors wardrobe pattern that is now OOP (1826), from which I've made the shell top pattern many many times. The skirt has no waistband, but I've used cotton tape around the waistband in between the fashion fabric and the lining fabric which is stretched slightly to make the waistband hug my body. I don't find this overly comfortable because I'm used to wearing clothes slung low around the hips, but this method certainly stops a pencil skirt swivelling around whilst walking in it. I have to thank my sewing friend Sharon (this post at her blog Petite and Sewing) for this tip - until she explained it to me I had only used the tape to stop the waistband from stretching out, not for shrinking it slightly.

I don't have anything to report on about the skirt - for an excellent run down on how to make a perfect lined skirt have a look at this three part series by Kyle over at Vacuuming the Lawn. She covers everything you need to know. But I do need to proudly show my superb pattern matching at the sides and back:

Burda 8/2016 #120 black drape top green plaid skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Burda 8/2016 #120 black drape top green plaid skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The top is Burda 8/2015 #120, which was my Burda of the month project in September last year (posted here). At that time I made in a horrible fabric that wrinkled and puckered terribly but despite that I really liked the pattern. This time it's made from a long term stash resident - a drapey fabric of mysterious composition, most likely 100% polyester with a textured surface finish similar to crepe. 

Burda 8/2016 #120 black drape top green plaid skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

This fabric didn't press very well, but it does drape beautifully. I finished the edge of the fabric fold  on the front with a rolled edge on my overlocker instead of a narrow edge, which helps it fold nicely. Of course being black you can barely see anything, so you'll have to take my word that it looks just the like pattern above.

Burda 8/2016 #120 black drape top green plaid skirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I also remembered to make the opening at the back neckline slightly longer than the pattern allows for - it just makes it easier to get it over my head which I'm beginning to think must be bigger than the standard Burda model sized head since this frequently occurs with my Burda projects!

So overall, two simple projects but together they make quite an impact thanks to the fabric. Reviewing my projects so far this year it seems I've had quite a colourful start to this year, must be the crazy heat we're having affecting my fabric choices!

Monday, 29 February 2016

Vintage wing tipped dress in red: Butterick 6473

At the start of spring last year I pulled out a few fabrics that had been sitting in the stash for a while that I really wanted to use and left them on my cutting table, in the hopes that looking at them all the time would prompt me to make something. Well that didn't work because I ended up using any fabrics other than those I had picked out especially to use, and all it meant was that my cutting table was cluttered! But finally I've used one of the fabrics to make this dress:

vintage Butterick 6473 red white graphic print wiggle dress www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The fabric is a printed cotton sateen bought from Spotlight a few years ago when their sateen was still quite thick and stretchy. I had originally planned to make a simple sheath dress from New Look 6968 because I've made it several times successfully (here, here and here) but also because this exact fabric appears on the pattern envelope - yes I am way too influenced by the pattern...

But instead I decided to use a vintage that I've had in the stash for a while now. I can't remember quite where it came from but most likely picked up from an op shop. The pattern is undated, but the vintage pattern Wiki places it at 1953:


I have been wanting to make this pattern for a long time but could never quite decide on the right fabric. I don't think I've used the right fabric in this version though, because even though the cotton sateen has the right amount of body and stretch to make it fit really well the busy print hides those special details. I think I will make this again in a solid colour, perhaps with a contrast collar and pocket to make those details stand out.

You can see below that the pocket flap is hardly visible:

butterick 6473 vintage wing collar wiggle dress in red and white www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

But, oh that collar! I do love an oversized, dramatic collar:

butterick 6473 vintage wing collar wiggle dress in red and white www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I also left off those buttons down the side. It is a key feature of this dress and I think it would look amazing in a solid colour, but the buttons would be completely lost on this dress so I just put in an invisible zip instead:

butterick 6473 vintage wing collar wiggle dress in red and white www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

This dress wasn't that easy to make and it took longer than I expected. While there wasn't any particularly tricky sewing involved, just figuring out the pattern took a lot of concentration. It's one of those very old patterns that have no printed instructions, but rather perforated dots of various sizes that you need to connect and figure out the connections.  And for all my complaints about the brevity of Burda instructions, this pattern is just as bad. One page of instructions, and one page of fabric cutting layouts and then you're on your own to muddle your way through.

butterick 6473 vintage wing collar wiggle dress in red and white www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com


The pattern incorporates an extension to the left side of the bodice and the skirt that gets folded under to form a facing for the buttons which I didn't need since I just used an invisible zip. Which meant I had to cut a few inches from the side seams and sew the side seams a few times to get a close fit, but  got there in the end. No swayback puddle of fabric and only a few wrinkles emanating from the armpit which is to be expected with cut on sleeves like these.

butterick 6473 vintage wing collar wiggle dress in red and white www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

butterick 6473 vintage wing collar wiggle dress in red and white www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The skirt isn't as slim fitting as the pattern illustration suggests, in fact it is rather an a-line shape as you can see in the photo below. However that is a good thing, because there is enough room to walk comfortably in this dress without having to leave a split open along a side seam:

butterick 6473 vintage wing collar wiggle dress in red and white www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Overall I'm really pleased with this project. Not only did I use a fabric and a pattern that I've been meaning to use for a long time now, but I also got a very cool dress that is perfect for the still very hot summer weather we're having. And in a great coincidence there happens to be a red dress contest running over at Pattern Review that I will enter, if any of you would like to vote for me! 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Burda of the month: 2/2016 #118 raglan sleeve top

Today's post is brought to you by heat wave conditions here in Sydney, a winter-ish issue of Burda and scratchy polyester fabric - in other words I have suffered for the sake of this post. However it was worth it to record the fact that I've made my February Burda of the month project in the month of February - that's 2 out of 2 this year so far, yay for me!

Burda 2/2016 #118 short sleeve raglan top in neon yellow and pink fabric www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I found this to be another great, with several patterns I liked. I ended up choosing to make 2/2016 #118, a raglan sleeve top with a stand up collar although unfortunately I did not have fabric nearly as cool as the perforated metallic high tech fabric used by Burda:

Burda 2/2016 #118 short sleeve raglan top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com
Image via Burda Style
My fabric is pretty cool in terms of colour though - neon yellow and pink, with sprinkles of blue and orange for good measure. It has a tweed like texture, although it's only a print and not a woven. I recall this fabric popping up on a few Australian bloggers in recent years, including this dress by Top Notch from 2014, so when I spied it on the clearance table at Spotlight recently for the princely sum of $4/m I snapped up a few metres for myself.

Burda 2/2016 #118 short sleeve raglan top in neon yellow and pink fabric www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The colour may be great, however the feel and texture is not so great. It's polyester/spandex, and it feels a bit like plastic bags woven together - a bit coarse and stiff but with four way stretch. However the stiffness was perfect for this style, as fabric with some body is required to make the collar stand up properly and not collapse. The collar is a straight piece cut on the bias and folded in half. I couldn't add any interfacing because some stretch is needed to ease the collar to the neckline, but luckily this fabric was stiff enough to work without interfacing.

Burda 2/2016 #118 short sleeve raglan top in neon yellow and pink fabric www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

It is quite a boxy shape, and I was tempted to shape it more which would have be easy with all those vertical seam lines but I left it as is instead. I generally make forward shoulder adjustments in all my tops and jackets but I wasn't exactly sure how to do that in a raglan sleeve with a collar like this, and you can see in the photo below that the top pushes to the back a bit and the hem at the front rises:

Burda 2/2016 #118 short sleeve raglan top in neon yellow and pink fabric www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com


Because the collar is so wide it doesn't feel like it is pushing against my neck and is comfortable enough to wear. Overall I quite like how this top has turned out. The hem finishes at my high hip and the sleeves just above my elbow, which is perfect for a casual look with skinny pants:

Burda 2/2016 #118 short sleeve raglan top in neon yellow and pink fabric www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

 Overall, another great pattern from Burda. It was very quick and easy to make because it's just a simple raglan top, but I think those seam lines and the stand up collar make it a little bit different. Now if only I could find a fabric like the one used by Burda, I would make another version of this top in a jiffy!