Monday, 29 March 2010

attack of the giant easter bunny!

Alternatively, this blog post could have been titled "I hasz sewing skilsz?".


First sewing failure (this week peeps, not first one ever!): I've been working all week on finishing another UFO but I think I've totally butchered it, which is really really annoying me because it is the jacket part of a two piece suit, and I've finished the skirt and you all know how I like to be matchy matchy! So I put it down to regroup before trying to salvage it.

Second sewing failure: I had a rare few hours of baby wrangling free time on Saturday afternoon, because my husband volunteered to take Anna to watch his old cricket team play in the grand finals (both of them out of my hair yay!). So I put the botched UFO aside and started working on a BWOF dress (yeah I know it's burda something or other now but I like acronyms). Got totally stumped by the usual less than illucidating BWOF instructions and really needed to research on Pattern Review to see what others had to say. But I didn't want to spend my free afternoon on the internets, because you all know how strong a vacuum it is, with one blog leading to another, so I set the dress aside (momentarily, not for years) and was desperately searching for something, anything to sew before the little hurricane returned home.

Third sewing failure: y'all know it's easter this weekend right? Well since Anna is only 15 months old I don't want her to take part in the annual chocolate gorge fest just yet, so I decided to make her a little rabbit softie instead, softie being the newfangled term for stuffed toy. I decided to use this vintage Woman's Day pattern from the stash:


The above is the pattern wrap (no envelope) - it had really bad photocopied pictures, next to no instructions and the pattern pieces are those predating printed ones, but it sewed up really quickly and easily. I made a cute face but I clearly wasn't really paying much attention because I kept stuffing, stuffing and stuffing until I ran out of stuffing and then realised just how big this rabbit is:


It's not even completely stuffed but it's already bigger than all the pillows on my lounge. I guess I really should have figured it out when I cut out the base piece and it is as big as a dinner plate. It is ginormous! After my husband stopped laughing he said it looked creepy, and even the dog gave a little whine and backed away from it. Plus, I used a button for it's nose thinking Anna was old enough now to be trusted with buttons, but no, the first thing she did when she saw it was try to bite the button off!

So evil bunny on steroids is going to be de-stuffed and put in the scraps bag. I have however googled bunny softie patterns and there are about a gajillion of them out there, so I'm sure I'll find a suitable subtitute.

And just a note to my future self, don't ever think of making these patterns, which also reside in the pattern hoard:

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

the generosity of others / shameless pattern hoarding enablers!

Yesterday I received a package from the lovely Kaye who is giving away a gazillion patterns over at her blog. Since I am such an avid vintage pattern collector / greedy hoarder, these are the lovelies I requested and received:
So much goodness for the mere price of postage! The Style dress in the top row is a maternity dress so it will be a very long time before I sew that (fingers crossed for no accidents), but I love the shell top in Simplicity 6444 and that Fabiani designer Vogue pattern is gorgeous if I could find the right fabric. I don't know how old exactly Simplicity 4586 girls dress and coat pattern is, but it's obviously from a more naive time because look at the back of the pattern envelope:


In case you can't see that clearly, yes the pattern does say it is suitable for 'chubbies', but make sure you purchase additional fabric for chubby girls. I'm partly shocked at the nastiness of it, but partly amused at times when things could be said so bluntly and simply be accepted!

Gosh, so much loving feedback on the last post - thank you all for comments, it certainly encourages me to go through my unloved pile of UFOs and come up something amazing. Vicki - you must have incredible eyesight, because yes those mint green heels do match the mint green stripe through the fabric. Carolyn - I have a little one who LOUDLY reminds me constantly that she exists, so there's no hiding from the fact that I have a one year old LOL! But I attribute all the weight loss to her never sleeping, since I probably walked the equivalent of a marathon every day and night trying to settle her. And maybe breastfeeding for 14 months, which is finally finished and the girls are back in more attractive bras! (Sorry if that's too much info!)

And finally thank you to Stephanie who has awarded me this:
Stephanie has a deep love of horses, which I have to say I'm secretly scared of horses because I have this irrational and unfounded fear that hey will bite me with those big chompers of theirs and they always seem to be giving me beady stares so I steer clear of 'em. That's just me - a bit unexplainable sometimes. But how can you not love a blog called 10 sewing machines and a serger ? Now I'm supposed to pass this on to 12 other bloggers, but I have the baby asleep and husband watching Top Gear so I'm going to disappear into my sewing room for a while so excuse me for breaking the rules!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Several light years later I've finished another UFO

I'm still working away on my big box of UFOs, I doubt I'll get to the bottom any time soon! This UFO I'm very ashamed of myself to say the least, because I got very very excited by the Vogue pattern release a few years ago of the infamous Roland Mouret galaxy dress and couldn't wait to sew up my own version. I even purchased the pattern online from sewingpatterns.com paying the currency conversion and international shipping because I couldn't wait until the pattern was released in Australia (typically 6 months or so later). Well as it turns out, I may as well have waited.....

After reading all the reviews by others who had made this, I decided to make a muslin version first to sort out any fitting and to practice the complicated instructions for the armhole flaps (called flanges by Vogue). I guess this was my downfall because after a few simple stuff ups that required a major amount of unsewing, I put this 'aside' for a little while to think about it some more. And to this date the muslin is still not finished even though I've now made three versions of this dress. I think the muslin might be one to chuck out of the UFO box now.

I found a grey stretch wool glenplaid check with a mint green lining running through that looks exactly like the photograph on the pattern envelope. Yeah I know, it's not very imaginative nor original to to copy it so closely, but I do find them extremely influential sometimes. Sewing it up when along swimmingly, the fit was great (even without that muslin being finished) but I had some sort of weird problem where the skirt seemed to spiral downwards and even though the horizontal lines matched up at the sides, one side of the skirt would always be one square check longer than the other and the hem line wouldn't follow a line. I just couldn't work out what I had done wrong and I got really annoyed, so I put this 'aside' again, to think about it a little while more.

After moving onto to many other projects, I made this dress up in a black sleeveless version which I don't seem to have blogged nor have a photo of. But I made it in a stretchy black wool, and it fitted perfectly and I wear it all the time in my work wardrobe either under a suit jacket or over a long sleeved shirt (I don't particularly like wearing sleeveless in the office, besides it's too cold in there). But still I didn't finish the grey version.

I even made a maternity version of this dress, by shortening the bodice to make it an empire line, and making the skirt portion much larger and less fitted through inverted pleats:

Anyway, I finally pulled out the grey check dress and finished it. I had to undo the skirt from the bodice and zipper, and re-sewed it making sure it was on grain and the skirt was dead straight on the front instead of being cut on a slight angle. That seemed to do the trick and here for your viewing pleasure is a dress you've probably seen a gajillion times before by other bloggers over the intervening years:

I made a matching belt out of one of those belt making kits which was seriously fiddly but looks better than a different coloured belt. I also ditched the puffy capulet thing that goes over the sleeve cap because it looked a little silly on me and didn't sit well under a jacket. Instead I just made a few pleats in the sleeve cap and cut them to three quarter length with a turned up cuff. I also made a full lining, instead of just the bodice as the pattern suggests, and sewed down the curved flaps under the arms to the bodice so they didn't flare out and reveal my bra strap. It's still tricky to find the right bra to wear under this, it's not that it's low cut but just at the sides I found some of my bras peeked out.
And look at how well the checks match at the side and back seams, and so they should given how much effort it took:



I just wished I had used an invisible zipper instead of a centred zipper, it would have looked much neater but there is no way I'm unpicking this baby again!
Anyway I may be a few years out of fashion now, but I don't really care because I think this is quite a classic shape. I think the square neckline is rather flattering on me, although I should wear some jewellery to cover up my bony clavicles (one is the result of a long ago broken collarbone).

And in the interests of blogging transparency, I confess to wearing some Nancy Ganz super suck in undergarments under the dress, and even then I sucked in my stomach all day at work on Tuesday when I wore this! But I think doing that is almost like an exercise in itself, so I'm telling myself I did an 8 hour workout....

Saturday, 13 March 2010

how to make a scarf

Thank you all for the lovely comments on the top in the last post, I have decided to try some darts in the back and to split the side seam at the hem in an attempt to reduce the billowy back but if that doesn't work I'll just wear it as it. It looks good from the front and that's all I can see LOL! I can't take credit for the scarf idea though, I chose View B (the pink top on the left) thinking it was a cowl neckline, but it was just really a seperate scarf artfully drawn in a lovely draped manner:

But it was super easy to make, in fact here's the instruction sheet:

To make it even easier to sew I used my narrow hem foot which is a fiddly pain in the beehind to use, but once you've started the seam it turns out brilliantly and is so fast to sew a narrow hem using it. Plus you save layers of skin on your fingers by not steam ironing a narrow hem!

So if you'd like to try one for yourself, here's the dimensions:

Just remember to cut it with the long straight edge on the bias so it drapes properly. I think this is a much better shape for a scarf than the traditional square or rectangle shape because you always end up folding those into a triangle anyway and with this one you just knot and you're done! Swipe on some red lipstick, and you'll be so Frenchy, so chic!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Phew, a narrowly averted UFO

Really? It's been two weeks since I last posted? Time really does seem to speed up when you get older, doesn't it? Been a busy two weeks though - we had our half yearly council rubbish collection so while my husband wasn't looking I chucked out heaps of junk from our garage and we can now fit one car in our (two and a half car) garage. Just in time too, because we've bought a new car, a station wagon to signal our recent arrival at mid-life, although my husband wasn't too keen to let his youth go and we've bought a sporty Volkswagon Passat. My lovely parents also came to stay for a few weekends to help us repair the floor in the dining room and that's all back together. Anna is still growing teeth and not sleeping at daycare so she's still spending most evenings crying and whinging instead of sleeping. And to top it all off, I'm been given the world's least fascinating project at work, writing a policy for the sustainable use of soils which is a very important issue but oh so dry.... (pardon the drought related pun there)

Anyway I did manage to finish a top that I had cut out before my overlocker went beserko. I do admit though it was only because I had publicly pledged on this blog not to create any new UFOs that I finished it at all! A combination of bad fabric choice and operator error is to blame, but the end result is passable to wear. I made this top:

using McCalls 6237, a 1960s vintage pattern that I got from Zip Zap Kap etsy seller, part of the prize I won from Sew Retro. It's a simple shell top with a bateau neckline, centre back zipper and the arm and neck facings are sewn on the clever way of lining a sleeveless sheath dress (sew back and front together at shoulders, sew the facings down, pull the back through the shoulders to the right side and then sew the side seams last of all), which is proof that despite the crappy way the Big 4 pattern company now instruct how to sew sleeveless dresses (handstitching the shoulder seams) wasn't always the way. I wonder why they changed their methods, when the clever method is easier and looks better?

The fabric I used is a floppy polyester chiffon (I think), that I bought from a garage sale from an elderly lady who used to work for Carla Zampatti for many years. I don't know if this fabric is something she got from the Zampatti workrooms, but it is a very pretty fuschia with little grey random squares. The floppiness of the fabric was the problem though, the fabric kept slipping and getting pulled under when I was sewing the invisible zip at the back so that I had to re-do it at least three times. And since I couldn't try it on for size until the side seams were sewn (almost the last step), I didn't realise until the end that the top was a little loose around the bust but too tight to slide down over my hips! Damn my pear shape and my lack of careful pattern measurements before cutting out!

But I perservered, let out the side seams as much as I could and finished it off. It's not perfect, look at the side view and my misplaced hunchback that I don't really have:

I think this is caused by the zipper being much stiffer than the fabric and because it's still a little too tight around the hips. Ah well, it is so cold in my office, even on the hottest day like today I always wear a suit jacket (and still my hands get so cold I can barely hold a pen), and the top certainly gives a much needed colour boost to this boring grey suit I had made for me in Bangkok a few years ago:

I even made the matching scarf to go with it, which gives the neckline a totally different look:

Overall I'm pretty happy with it, and will still wear it as long as I wear a jacket over it to hide that back!

Thank you all for your handy tips on stopping the ripply hem on knits, I will keep an eye out for either some embroidery stabiliser or fusible webbing next time I have to go to the fabric shop and will try that out. My next few projects are with my old friends woven fabrics in natural fibres, so I know I'm in safer territory there.

I can't say I've worn the dotty skirt since I took the photo in the last post, so I haven't had a chance to test out all your fashion advice. But I can say Carol that I just happened to buy a pair of hot pink shoes a few weeks ago, so I'll definately try out your suggestion!