Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Burda 4/2013 #109 dress: bright and bold (and done!)

On the last day of April I've managed to finish my April Burda garment - nothing works like a deadline for motivation!  I did procrastinate this issue because frankly nothing really stood out in the April issue, and from what I can see the May issue is just as bad.

When I was cleaning out the purple shelf of my fabric stash a little while ago, I came across a vibrant fuchsia silk with a black floral print given to me from my husband's aunt quite a few years ago when she was downsizing from her large family home to an apartment.  It wasn't a very big piece, only 90cm and about 1.5m long so I was thinking perhaps another New Look 6000 dress because that can be squeezed out of a small piece of fabric, but instead I chose to make the simple shift dress from the April issue, #109A:

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source: burdastyle

This dress is a little different to my usual style, since it's borderline shapeless sack (despite how fitted the model's dress looks in the photo) and I did fight a strong urge to put some vertical darts in the front and back to provide some more shape.  But I am pleasantly surprised at how it looks on - it seems to be still quite flattering without being skin tight.  At least from the front that is, because the side profile view is very potato sack like:

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Wearing a belt with it though doesn't improve the look - the fabric is a bit stiff and there is a little too much of it to cinch it in properly, and it just looks wrong:

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I made a few small changes to the construction - I fully lined the dress using the sleeveless bodice lining method so thoroughly explained by Trena in her tutorial, instead of using bias binding around the armholes and an outside facing at the neckline.  I also moved the zipper from the side to the centre back purely because I didn't have enough fabric to cut the back piece on the fold, and I don't particularly like side zips anyway.  I did keep the keyhole opening above the zipper at the centre back just as a design feature:

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I'm not quite loving the armholes though - the shoulder seams are very narrow and I really need to sew on some bra strap holders to stop my bra straps peeking out.  But I'm not sure it's so flattering or elegant to have that much of the armpit or that fleshy bit in the armpit fold on display:

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So for that reason I'm probably unlikely to make this dress again, but I'll definitely be wearing this one I've made.  I can envisage it with some black opaque tights and some really high heels to wear during our coming winter.  And I'm extremely happy this fabric has made it out of the stash and into my wardrobe.

Speaking of the stash, I still haven't finished cleaning it up yet but I am very happy to say that I haven't added to it at all since January.  Not one bit! I haven't deliberately set out on a fabric ban, but I've just found so much great stuff in the stash that the next 10 billion projects I've already planned out from fabric I already own, and nothing has really caught my eye while I've been out and about lately.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Winter dress: New Look 6745

I made the mistake of letting Anna into my sewing room the other day whilst I was trying to trace some Burda patterns.  I say mistake because she proceeded to pull fabrics from the stash for me to make into dresses for her, in the process messing up my newly folded fabric shelves.  That child leaves a trail of destruction wherever she goes!

Our weather has finally turned cool although we're still having mostly gloriously sunny days (I so love autumn best) so I thought I would appease her wish for a new dress plus save myself an argument every morning when I try to convince her not to wear a lightweight summer dress to school and just make her a new winter dress.  Enter a brushed cotton fabric in a vivid almost psychedelic floral print that I've had in my stash since 2007 and bought from an op shop according to a little swatch book I kept for a very short time:


I used New Look 6745, a now OOP pattern that I also picked up in an op shop.  I made version D, the long sleeved version, although I left off the ruffle around the bottom out of sheer laziness.  Of course after Anna spied the pattern she demanded a dress just like the little girl in the top picture with a ruffle around the bottom, so you may see another version of this dress again soon.

The pattern is super simple and surprisingly the sizing was spot on.  I made a size 4 for Anna even though it was a bit bigger than her measurements, so that she could layer it over some undershirts for when it's really cold, and hopefully wear it next year too.  It doesn't look too big on her now, although I'm not sure that height wise she'll be able to wear it as a dress next year.

The only change I made was to fully line the bodice in a bright pink cotton poplin instead of fiddling about with bias tape for the neckline.  What I really like about this dress is that it buttons up at the back - Anna has an annoying habit of changing her outfit multiple times a day which means an enormous amount of washing for me to do, but she can't get those buttons un-done without help so chalk a minor win up for me!


Believe or not but I had those giant pink buttons in the stash - my next door neighbour who works as a pattern designer for a fashion manufacturer here in Sydney gave me a big bag of buttons last time she offloaded some of her stash to me and these were in there.  Perfect colour for the dress and perfect size for her dad to do up too - he's all thumbs sometimes! Unfortunately the first one broke my button foot on my machine, so I had to sew all the rest on by hand.


And most important of all - the dress twirls just enough to please my little whirlwind:




Thank you all for your encouraging comments on the last post.  I readily admit that I am quite hard on myself in terms of quality, but I do like my garments to look perfect and not at all home made.  After 18 years of sewing I've moved beyond the stage of just being excited that I've made something that hasn't fallen apart to now being excited when something comes out perfectly executed.  It's partly why I don't like sewing with knits so much - I feel like a newbie sewer all over again.  It just goes to show that there's always something to learn, no matter how experienced or knowledgeable you are.

Speaking of which, I'm attending a workshop on using the overlocker this Saturday with my local group of the Australian Sewing Guild which I'm thoroughly looking forward to.  Last month I attended the industry day with the guild and not only did I learn loads about interfacing and sewing but I also had such fun, mainly thanks to the ladies I was sitting with making jokes and giggling all day like naughty schoolgirls (yes I mean you Sharon, Alison and Renata!).  Plus I won a lucky door prize and scored a few metre of some new fangled interfacing recently released by McCalls which will come in handy for the winter jacket I'm going to make shortly now that my sewing mojo has returned.

Monday, 22 April 2013

New Look 6149: wrapping up the project after fourteen years

I'm still lacking in the sleep department and in the sewing inspiration department. I was moping around my sewing room with a bit of time to spare on Saturday and I still didn't feel like starting a new project which is very unusual because I just don't have kid free time to waste these days! Even sorting through my fabrics didn't help so I decided to tidy up my sewing room instead.

In the bottom of my UFO box I found a black textured polyester knit fabric that I had cut the pattern pieces out for a wrap top but hadn't done anything more than pack it away - seriously, the pattern pieces were still pinned to the fabric.  This project is really, really old - when I was at uni doing my undergrad degree in the mid 90s I used to work at Lincraft in Chatswood part time and not only did staff get discounts on fabric and other stock, but we used to also get four free patterns each month plus any discontinued patterns too. I think they were trying to encourage their staff to sew their creations to inspire the customers.  I was one of the very few on staff that sewed or had any idea about sewing actually.  Too bad the job paid appallingly because the benefits were great and it was nice standing around fabric all day! Anyway, this pattern and fabric was picked up during that time, so it's more than 14 years old since I graduated in 1999.  Yikes! I decided it was about time to either finish it or lob it.  Now that it's finished, I'm still considering ditching it anyway:



The pattern is New Look 6149, which is OOP but can be found on line from a number of ebay sellers although I wouldn't bother because it's not that special.  I wish I had of known about Pattern Review (did it even exist back then?) when I started this because I would have read that this top is really short and needs to have extra length added before cutting it out.  But luckily this purple print skirt I'm wearing it with is somewhat high waisted and so the length is ok so long as I don't go around with my arms up in the air too much.....

It's a really simple raglan sleeved wrap top with long ties on each side, one of which is supposed to slide through a slit left open in the side seam.   Except that I made this completely on my overlocker, which meant I had sewn those side seams completely closed before I remembered I had to leave an opening.  Being too lazy to unpick overlocking stitches in a black knit fabric, I instead made a jumbo buttonhole like opening next to the side seam to let the tie through.  From the outside it's not that noticeable, but the inside is a red hot mess:




I'm keeping it real here people - most of the time my sewing is done really well, but sometimes it's done really poorly.  Want more evidence of my dodginess? Well the front of the top gaped open when the ties were done up, I should have reduced the length of the front wrap before cutting out but since I didn't, this was my very low tech solution:


I just made a crude dart in each of the front wrap pieces - one isn't visible because it's on the under layer but the one in the top wrap is visible but it just adds a bit more pleating to the front, so it sort of looks ok.  And it took away the gaping so good enough I think!

The back has a centre back seam that I couldn't see the reason for at all.  I suppose it gives an opportunity to shape the back piece and get a snugger fit, especially if you have a swayback but I think it looks a bit messy and unnecessary. 


I lightened this photo so you can see the centre back seam
And being a raglan sleeve it's not so flattering to stand around with one's hands on their hips either!

I decided not to use the neck edge facings the pattern requires, and instead just used turned under and topstitched after overlocking and using some iron on stabilising tape along the neck edge.  Turned out good enough.

And I think that sums up this project - good enough! I don't think I'll ever favour sewing with knits over wovens because I do like a crisp, tailored and highly structured look which is just not what you get from knits but there's definitely a need in my wardrobe for some nice tops.  So this top is out of the UFO box and into my wardrobe, for now at least.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Third time (un)lucky: Burda 11/2012 #112

I wanted to title this post 'third time is a charm' but I've just had one of those weeks, sewing wise where nothing goes right!  I am just so exhausted from Toby still sleeping quite badly at night combined with being cooped up in an office for three long days each week that I've barely had any energy or desire to sew which is so unlike me.

I decided to make a third version of my current favourite A-line skirt pattern, Burda 11/2012 #112 from a rich red velveteen that I pulled from the stash recently when I was cleaning up the red shelf.  I'm hoping that we will start enjoying some cooler weather around these parts - the hot summer weather has been lingering far too long for my liking.  After making a green cotton drill version and a dark denim version with no dramas I thought I'd be able to sew this quickly - but no, what a painful journey it was to get this done!




Firstly I stitched up the side seams and centre front seams before doing the welt pockets.  Little mistake number one.  No big deal, it's still doable it just means there's more fabric to wrangle with.  And because I've made this skirt twice before I didn't bother doing a practice run of the welt pocket. How arrogant of me! Mistake number two.  After sewing on the welt strips properly I then went ahead and ruined it by sloppily snipping the welt pocket open - I cut the 'y' end past the stitching line so that when I pulled the strips through there was raw fabric and no saving it.

Time to walk away from the sewing room for a while!

The following night I tried again, unpicked the skirt, cut out a new front piece and sewed a perfect welt pocket.  Yippee, things are moving again. I powered through sewing the rest of the skirt and a lining and all was going well until I pressed the lining after sewing it to the invisible zip and this happened:


Big mistake! I forgot to turn down the iron after pressing the thick velveteen and immediately burnt the lining fabric.  Huge sigh...... This time I walked away from my sewing for a few days to regroup.

But happily I managed to finish sewing the remainder of the skirt with no major dramas, and I even remembered to sew the skirt with the nap of the fabric going downwards on all the skirt panels so at least that's something!

Maybe it's the universe telling me to try a different skirt pattern - three times is possibly enough.  I do love this skirt though, it's so comfortable, functional with its pockets and a flattering shape to boot.  I've worn this skirt with the black and white striped Burda top that I made for the green cotton drill version - funnily enough it turns out that the colours that go well with green go well with red too!


Now I really want to sew a long sleeved shirt in some beautiful Liberty cotton I picked up at the first Sydney sewists meet up last year but I'm too scared I'll stuff it up so maybe I'll do something a little easy first.

Speaking of a sewists meetup, have you all seen the photos of the gorgeous dresses and marvellous time the Melbourne ladies had at their SewcieTea, organised by Melanie of seamstress:poppykettle fame? Especially the gorgeous Liberty dress that Rachel at My Messings made and wore with a crinoline. Sydney ladies - I think we all need a special occasion to frock up as well!  

Monday, 8 April 2013

First birthday shirt: Burda 9505

I can scarcely believe it myself, but Toby turned one last week.  He celebrated by taking his first steps which he soon followed up with some speed walking and I can't help but bust out an old cliché - where has my little baby gone?!

I've decided to start a birthday tradition for Toby and make him a shirt each birthday, much like I make a new dress for Anna each birthday.  If there's one thing I've learnt so far as a mother of two is that you need to be as equal as possible, mainly to stop the whinging and complaining! So here is Toby's first birthday shirt, worn with a pair of hand me down jeans I had previously made for Anna:


I used Burda 9505, which the lovely Steph in New Zealand posted to me last August - thanks again Steph it certainly came in handy.  I would like to say that I whipped this out in a few hours, because it's only a little bitty shirt but it took me the best part of Saturday to cut it out and sew.  I'll never again complain about children's clothes costing nearly as much as adult clothes, sure there's less fabric but it takes just as long to sew and maybe even longer given how fiddly it can get on a small scale.

This shirt is a replica of an adult shirt, complete with sleeve placket and cuffs, collar stand and yoke  but it was worth it because it's just so stinkin' cute as a miniature business shirt.

From the stash I found a rather bright red and white plaid cotton, which had been in there a long time but is just right for a little boy.  I managed to match the plaid at the front and side seams, but I cut the yoke and patch pocket on the bias to avoid having to match those stripes up.


I haven't sewn a Burda envelope pattern for a long time, and I don't think I've sewn one of their kid's patterns but I have to say the sizing was spot on and the instructions weren't nearly as confusing as the magazine.  I suppose it's just a straightforward shirt so not even Burda couldn't complicate the instructions too much.  The only change I would make to the pattern is to make the cuff wider because it's a little tight around Toby's pudgy wrist and maybe shorten the placket as it seems to be open almost to his elbow.  Although that does help with folding the shirt sleeves up so that he can get down to work:






Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Simple red dress: New Look 6968 yet again

So I survived my first week back at work, but boy was it hard.  Hard to stay awake and paying attention that is! Toby has developed a bit of a cough so he has been waking quite a lot during the night, which combined with his early rising means that by about 2pm or so I'm done for the day and need a nanna nap...

I did get to spend a good chunk of Easter Monday up in my sewing room spending quality time with my fabrics.  I decided to give the red shelf of my stash a clean up, because it was in a horrendously messy state:


I didn't actually ditch too much of my red pieces: red is my favourite colour even if I don't sew with  too often, but at least it's tidy now:


Two pieces went straight into the wash, one of which is this gloriously deep red ponti knit that had been basted into a shift dress that was ginormous on me:



This is a UFO from my grandma's stash (now in my stash), recognisable by her handstitching - I've unpicked enough of her garments for refashioning to know her stitching as well as her handwriting.  It actually has a matching jacket that was completed that my mum currently wears, but I guess a dress and jacket combo might have been too much for my grandma and she didn't finish this.  I was going to take in the side seams and put some darts in, but it was just way too low under the arms for a quick refashion like that.  So instead I pulled it apart completely and just treated it like two oddly shaped pieces of fabric.

I used New Look 6968 again (first, second and third time), not only because it's a great fitting dress but also because it's really economical in it's fabric use so I knew I could squeeze it out from this.  I did need to lower the neckline though because the pattern is for a high round neck but the neckline of the dress was cut too low to fit that in, but apart from that I managed to cut the rest of the pattern pieces out from the fabric:




Check out my new 'back to work' haircut - even if my heart isn't in it at the moment at least I look the part!

I fully lined this dress with some lining fabric in a deep purple colour bought by the roll from the Remnant Warehouse last year sometime, so I didn't have to use any facings luckily since there wasn't any fabric left over for those.  I attached the dress to the lining at the vent at the centre back, but thanks to this photo I can see that I didn't do it properly because there is a slight bulge above the vent.  There is value in taking photos of these unflattering angles after all


I can also see how bad my posture is too from this photo - I always knew that my right shoulder was lower than my left, but the wrinkles above the waistline on my right side seem to indicate that I am slumping quite a bit.  Hmmm, perhaps I need to see a chiropractor or physio before it gets any worse.

I don't about you, but when I think of a red dress I think of either an overly sexy, va va voom style dress or a tacky dress best worn with stripper heels! But it turns out a red dress, at least a dress in a darker, deeper red like this one, is quite versatile.  I can tone it down a bit with a beige jacket (RTW from Jacquie E) to wear to work:


or make it really casual with a denim jacket (made by me) and some flats:


And I've even cut out and started sewing a second piece in red - I'm so happy to be using my red fabrics finally.