Monday, 26 January 2015

The return of my fabric stash

I've finally brought the last bags of my fabric stash out of storage and back into my sewing room where they belong. I have to share a photo of the shelves while the piles of fabric are still looking so neat and tidy:

Despite culling a lot of fabric from my stash last year I still have quite a bit. Ok, I freely admit it - I have a huge amount of fabric!

I got so much inspiration from folding each piece of fabric, my mind is so full of projects that if only I had the time to sew everything I want to I'd have the wardrobe of my dreams.

My next step is to cover up these shelves with curtain fabric to keep the sun and dust off the fabrics because my sewing room is quite bright with long windows on three sides. As much as I love looking at these shelves every time I come into my sewing room, the thought of my fabrics fading is the stuff of nightmares.

Funnily enough, going through my old posts I've just discovered that on this day 5 years ago I also posted a picture of my stash - must be something about having a long weekend in January! Unfortunately the neatness of that stash degenerated into a terrible mess (see this post) which took me months to sort out but happily I'm back to square one in terms of an orderly stash.

And now to get on with the actual sewing - I took the kids camping this weekend just gone and then to a bbq at a friends house today so no actual sewing has been done, but you can't get more Australian on Australia Day than camping and a bbq right?!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Same but badly different! Burda Sailor Shorts and retro Vogue boxy top

Isn't it funny (and annoying) how you can take a pattern that you've used before successfully only to have it turn out badly? If I use a pattern a second time I expect to able to whip it up without needing to try it on and make fitting changes during the construction - silly me! Lesson learnt: no matter how many times I've used a pattern I will try on and check before finishing it.....

Just before Christmas I bought some vibrant chilli red stretch cotton drill from Spotlight  and immediately cut out a pair of the Burda sailor shorts from 6/2014 #123 I made back in October which look great and I wear quite often. I didn't get it sewn before Christmas but I did finish them last week when I finally bought some buttons for them, and well what a disappointment:

The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen the legs from mid thigh to above the knee, but the stretch in the fabric made a huge difference to the fit. I had to take the shorts in all over, but those horizontal lines at the front aren't the usual crotch 'whiskers' caused by it being tight but rather it's the bottom edge of the panel that goes across the stomach underneath the outer layer with the end of the zipper in particular sticking out. When I look at the photos of the previous version I can see it happening slightly, but because that fabric is thicker and non stretch it isn't as obvious:

Oh well, maybe I'll think about what can be fixed, but I have worn the red pair a few times already and since they're just casual shorts they don't need to be perfect. I have too many other things on my sewing list that I want to make instead of spending time obsessing over these minor details.

I've been doing a bit of a wardrobe audit and realised I don't have many tops at all so I decided to make something to wear with these, otherwise I would probably just always wear a black and white stripe tee with them. I pulled out a vintage pattern picked up in the past from an op shop - Vogue 8291 which is undated but I think may be 1980s judging by the style?

It's just a simple boxy top but is perfect for a casual summer top and it didn't turn out as potato sack like as I had expected. I used a blue printed cotton fabric that was a long term stash resident, also bought from an op shop long ago that to me also has an 80s vibe to it. And to top it off I've got on some terribly 80s plastic beads that my grandma used to wear all the time that I always thought were hideous but couldn't bring myself to chuck them because of sentimental value.

The squared neckline has a wide facing that I topstitched down for a bit of interest. I think the neckline is lovely, but ironically it shows a little too much skin for me because getting enough sunscreen on the back of my neck is always fiddly.

One side has a sewn on tab to put the buttons on, and this side of the top the sleeve hems are just an extension of the hem of the body of the top - folded under and stitched.

I did lengthen this top by about 5cm which was lucky I did because it turned out quite short. You can see in the photo above that I had to sew an extra bit on button tab to get that top button on - carelessly I cut the extra tab with the grain going the other way which you probably didn't notice until I pointed it out right? Those buttons also originated from an op shop and have been in the stash a long time, so overall this top was very cheap and sort of good for the stash (it barely used a metre of fabric).

Surprisingly I quite like this top and I'm already thinking of another version in a stripe fabric or one perhaps with a contrasting neckline by sewing the facing on the outside. So many possibilities for such a simple pattern!

Lastly, that wall you can see in the background of these photos is a sneak peek of my newly revamped sewing room - it's about 75% done and it's going to be fantastic when it's all done and my sewing supplies have come home to me.

Monday, 12 January 2015

6th birthday dress

Well it's that time of year again that I made another birthday dress for first born child - I simply cannot believe that she's already 6 and finished her first year of school! I'm sure I say this every year, but those of you who have been reading my blog since before I was even pregnant with Anna will have to agree that the time has simply flown by.

I wasn't sure if I could get away with making a birthday dress from a pattern and fabric of my choice, as she's developing some strong personal fashion choices (to put it mildly!) but this year she's still happy with what I made for her. I used Burda 7/2014 #137 to make a simple ruffled neckline, elasticised waistband dress:

Helpfully Burda has made a matching ladies dress pattern (7/2014 #119) if dressing like your child / significant young person in your life is your thing, but it's not mine so I don't plan on making one for myself anytime soon! 

image via BurdaStyle

image via BurdaStyle
 I made this version in a neon pink polka dot cotton bought from Spotlight which is a great fabric - it doesn't crease too much during wear but pressed well when I was sewing it and hasn't faded yet despite being washed a few times now.

The pattern is super simple - the front and back are basically the same except that the ruffle is more gathered at the back (not that I can see the difference). The sizing is spot on given that Burda's children patterns are done by height, and this is a dress fitted only by elastic really. The ruffle is gathered across the bodice, and there is elastic in the top of the ruffle to cinch it around the shoulders. I suspect the main reason that Anna likes it so much is that it can be worn with the ruffle pulled down around the upper arms, for some reason she thinks strapless tops and dresses are the most fantastic thing around (even though I pull up the ruffle if I catch her wearing it out like this):

And of course it passes the compulsory twirl test, I guess that 6 isn't too old yet for the odd bout of twirling and swirling:

So I have one more thing sewn last year to blog about before starting on this year. Although to be honest I haven't sewn yet anything this year because happily my sewing room is currently being painted as part of my sewing space makeover. But I did have a lovely sewing day on Saturday with some friends at Tessuti in the city - of course I couldn't not buy any fabric during their sale but I did control myself and only came home with 5m. This is why I never make any fabric diet resolutions  - it would never last!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Index of Australian sewing bloggers and Mr Darcy's boxers!

We're finally home from our annual holiday northwards to sunny Queensland to visit my husband's family and to have a beach holiday. As much as I love going away for a holiday there's nothing quite like being in your own home either.

Whilst I was away, I received an email from Maren over at I am Ms. Frizzle telling me about an index of Australian sewing bloggers she has set up. What a great idea - I read blogs from all around the world because we all speak the common language of sewing but when you need inspiration for something to sew right now a local blog is most relevant in terms of the season. Go and check it out when you have time, and if you're not on the list email Maren to be part of it - the more inclusive the better I say!

So I'm not planning to do an end of the year roundup / Top 5 post because it's all been documented here already - I know I had some great hits, a few hilarious misses and no resolutions to break so this year I will keep on with the same. But I will blog one of the last things I made last year. My husband complained that I never sew anything for him and also complained that the elastic had gone in several of his sleep shorts which I had made for him quite a few years ago (see I do sew for him!). So to kill two birds with one stone I decided to make him a few more pairs.

I don't normally blog the boring basics I sew - there's nothing new to say about tracksuit pants or simple pull on shorts for the kids, even if I can get a cute photo of them wearing it. But I decided to blog this to officially record that I do actually sew for him and also to give a shout out to the pattern I used because not only is it free but it's also simple and great.

I used the Darcy boxer short pattern available free to download from the pattern designers site and from The Sewing School at Peppermint Magazine. This pattern is developed by the lovely Susan at Measure Twice Cut Once, who I have had the pleasure to meet quite a few times through the Sydney Spoolettes group. Now I know I have been a bit critical of indie pattern companies in the past, but Susan actually does have industry training and experience so I knew the pattern would work perfectly. And it did.

Since my husband looks more like Yao Ming the giant Chinese basketballer than the delightful Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, I'll spare you a photo of him modelling them. But I made a few small pairs of simple shorts for Toby from the same fabric so here's a cute clothesline photo of the matching daddy and son shorts:

There's not much to say about a simple boxer short pattern, but the fit is spot on and the instructions are very informative with helpful diagrams. I made a few small changes - I did a faux fly instead of an opening button front fly because I was a bit lazy and pushed for time, and I also didn't have any white elastic so instead of an exposed elastic band waist I made a casement for the crazy rainbow elastic I did use. The only small quibble I had with the pattern is that there are separate pattern pieces for the left and right fronts with the only difference being the fly extension on the left front. It just means printing out more paper and extra cutting out which you could probably do without.

If you're in need of new boxer shorts the Darcy pattern is good for ladies as well, and comes in a range of sizes. In fact Susan has a whole range of patterns for essential and pretty underclothes in her shop along with sew-a-longs and handy tips on her blog as well.

It turns out I had a lot to say about a pair of simple boxer shorts didn't it?

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas to you all

Thank you to all of you that have read along with my adventures this year, especially those who took the time to comment whether it was to compliment my successes, laugh with me at my project failures or to offer some advice - it was all gratefully accepted and appreciated!

We've just finished a late night Christmas present wrapping session - I don't know why we leave it to the last minute every single year, maybe it's become our Christmas tradition?! At least we didn't run out of sticky tape or paper, and all is now done ready for the crack of dawn when small children like to wake, particularly on Christmas morning.

I've leave you with some vintage Christmas loveliness, mainly because I didn't want to leave that embarrassing last project as my last post for the next 2 weeks!

image from poshtottydesignz via pinterest

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Burda of the month 12/2014 #107 blouse: finishing the year on a hilarious note!

I was all primed to give myself a high five for finishing my December Burda of the month project but it turns out that instead I'm doing a public service by giving you all some probably much needed mirth in this crazy pre-Christmas period with all the associated stress, tiredness and general frantic running around trying to do everything and be everywhere.

So not much took my fancy in this issue, there is a lovely panelled peplum top that I considered but since I'm on holidays and not at work for a few weeks I instead decided to make another casual loose-fitting drapey top in a lightweight fabric, trying to duplicate the success with last month's Burda project. And I admit to being thoroughly swayed by the cool and insouciant model! So very unwisely I made the v-neck drawstring blouse 12/2014 #107:

I bought a colourful rayon from Spotlight (bought during a recent 30% off sale of course!) and made my version. I think the look on my face says it all, despite my best efforts at hiding beneath a hat and sunglasses:


So where to begin? It turns out the reason that the model in the Burda photo is standing with her hands in the pockets of her sequinned wide legged culottes is because the sleeves are set in so low and the top is so wide that if you move your arms in an upward direction the top does this:


Highly unpractical and very uncomfortable. Aren't those sleeves ridiculously big? I could probably make clothes for each of my children with those sleeves alone:


I thought the placement of the drawstring on the pattern drawing looked too low and would probably look better higher, but it turns out that it couldn't be any higher because of those sleeves. But it makes the back billow out hugely above the drawstring at the back, and the side view looks completely crooked.



My verdict: an easy pattern to sew, but save your time and your fabric. Oh, won't someone think of the fabric!

For my crime against this innocent and undeserving fabric, my punishment is to unpick those overlocked seams and make this into something better and wearable.

I did use the leftover fabric though to make a simple elastic waist skirt for Anna which she is very happy with so all is not lost. I sewed this skirt after I cut out the top but before I had made it, so now there is practically no fabric left so hopefully I can do a remake from the top along (there is a lot of fabric there to use!). But Anna is happy, and that's all that matters:

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The circuit breaker: Burda 01/2011 #112 pencil skirt

Isn't it funny how sometimes the simple projects can cause you just as much if not more grief than complicated ones? I've spent more time than I care to think about trying to make a simple unlined cropped jacket in a white stretch denim but it is causing me huge fitting issues and after unpicking it for the third time I had to step out of my sewing room for quite a few days. I was completely over sewing which is unlike me. I even had a sewing day and lunch with some friends from the ASG where I did little more than eat, chat and watch others sew!

As much as I don't want to create any new UFOs, I just had to put it aside and move on with something else, which I did:


Hence why I'm calling this skirt a circuit breaker - I just wanted to make something simple that I could wear straight away to get back some of that instant gratification of sewing and lose some of the frustration. And it worked, because since finishing this last week I've made three more things, including my last Burda of the month project (all yet to be photographed though).

So there's nothing terribly special or different about this skirt, but I've blogged it mainly as a note to my future self about the changes I made to the pattern in case I want to make it again. I used an old Burda, 1/2011 #112 which looks like this:

A few years ago I made a skirt using the alternate pattern (#113) with the little godet at the back hem in a grey glenplaid wool. It is one of the best fitting pencil skirts I've ever made, although I think the waistband yoke is too wide, the skirt was way too long for me and the godet sticks out in a funny way. So for this version I shortened both the lower skirt portion and the yoke, although of course in the floral fabric I've used you can hardly see the seam lines:


I also shortened the yoke at the back so that the seam lines matched at the side but I cut it down the centre back instead of on the fold so I could use a centre back zip instead of a side zip. Since I have curves and bumps at my sides in the hip area I prefer not to use a side zip as they tend to ripple or stick out a bit.  I also made a mitred vent at the hem instead of just a split, it just seems more finished to me but again you can barely make out this detail due to the fabric I used.


The fabric I used is a cotton sateen bought from Spotlight several years ago now. Because I know that sateen tends to bag out after a few hours of wear and wrinkles terribly, I underlined the skirt in a thin lilac cotton that was a long term stash resident, and handstitched the yoke to the lower skirt portion at the seam line. The insides of my garments are all about function - I never have enough patience to make it pretty with French seams and lace around the hem line some other more attentive sewists!


So I don't want to jinx myself, but this altered pattern could well become my TNT and holy grail of pencil skirts! I've already worn it twice in a week and a half and it is really comfortable. With my pear shape, I find that skirts are usually too tight across my hips and thighs so it rides up at the waistband, or I make them looser to skim over my hips but it means that the skirts twist around when I'm walking. This one stays just where it should and even thought it looks very fitted I could sit comfortably in it.


And even though I've worn it all wrong in this photo - I should wear darker colours on the bottom not the top - this skirt goes well with quite a few lighter coloured tops in my wardrobe so I can me wearing it quite frequently this summer. If only I could finish that white cropped jacket to wear with it though!