Wednesday, December 17, 2014

See you next year!

Hi all!
My work is on the move again. Earthquake strengthening has been completed on an old building in Te Aro (Wellington central) so we're moving back into town again - yaaaa!  
So, because I've packed up my camera cables already, I'm recycling an old image.
Wish you all and your friends and families a safe and happy holiday season.
See you all in the new year!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Vintage McCall's 3932 and the Purple Rain Dress

Y'know how sometimes something starts off a bit wrong, and then just gets progressively worse? Well, that happened here.

Mistake No.1 was buying fabric on TradeMe I had an inkling wasn't quite what it seemed. When it arrived, instead of being a lovely rich burgundy, it was a shabby dusky pink. Inkling had me ask "Is colour true to image?" before I purchased (assured it was – it wasn't). Don't get me wrong, dusky pink is a gorgeous on the right complexion; however it's my 'nude', thanks to a good smattering of Irish in my bloodline. So, the ghastly thing went into the pot with the next round of dyeing—purple. Success – a much better colour for my skin tone.

Fitting was Mistake No.2. This pattern is a little too small all over for me, but I must have carried the 1 too many times while working out how much extra to add because it ended up 10 cm too large. And of course I'd put in the pockets before discovering this – oh joy, more to unpick!
Finally, thought it was all finish, and tried it on to check everything looked ok, turned around to see the back view – and instead of the bodice blousing nicely at the waist, I had an ugly poochy back roll. ARRGH! The back neck to waist measurement needed to be shortened by 3.5cm – yet more unpicking.
So at the moment, I'm feeling a little ho-hum about this dress. Can't even be bothered taking decent photos of it. It might have to hang in the naughty corner of the wardrobe for a while until I forgive and forget. Sigh.
On the plus side, I'm chuffed with the belt I made for it using the wrong side of the fabric, topstitched in black thread. One little spark of genius in that big gloomy cloud.

Wish I could join Snaggle-Puss today, it's so dreadfully wet outside. Awww, isn't he sweet.
Had issues imbedding this video of Prince singing "Purple Rain" from the movie into the post, but click on the link if you'd like a trip down memory lane. The costumes are fabulous!

Update 04/12/14: forgiven and forgotten. Incredibly practical dress - always looks elegant and polished with minimal effort - just slip it on, step into shoes and I'm on my way!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Viva Las Vegas top - Simplicity 3790

Years ago, I spent a few memorable days in Las Vegas with the girls. Of course, outlet mall shopping was on the agenda, but unuse to the pace and heat, I started to wilt after a couple of hours. The solution was to change out of jeans into a newly purchased bright and breezy sundress. However, a new problem soon developed - as the fabric was super stretchy, the shoestring straps kept on stretching to the point of indecency! By the end of the day the straps were a tangled mess of knots tied in an effort to prevent a complete wardrobe malfunction.
Back in New Zealand, the straps unpicked from the dress, a piece of blue lycra from the scrap bag found to make new ones, it was all tied together ........ and became a UFO for several years.

Enter my wardrobe gap of work-appropriate tops. Looking at the fabric again, I decided I would get more wear out of it if it was a top. Choosing Simplicity 3790 (view F, sleeves view E) from my recent St Vinnies haul, I laid it out to cut, then realised the pattern doesn't have a back yoke, only one in the front. Because the yoke would be in the contrasting blue lycra, I wanted it to continue around the body, so whipped up my own back yoke pattern. I also cut contrasting strips of blue for the sleeve hems, and left as much of the original sundress length as possible.

The result is a lovely floaty tunic, casual yet smart enough for work, which has now been worn more times than when it was a sundress!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Art nouveau water lily top - New Look 6754

The warming weather (and dodgy aircon at work) lead me to discover a major gap in my wardrobe—I have a lack of nice, work-appropriate tops. Knowing summer tops use very little fabric, and before heading off to the shops to buy more, I decided to have a ferret around in my scrap bag (aka dump its entire contents on the floor). The first fabric I spied was a piece of cotton printed with art nouveau inspired water lilies, left over from a sunfrock made many years ago. At some stage I'd tied a similarly coloured scrap of plain cotton to it because there wasn't quite enough to make a top by itself (my navel-exposing days are long gone!).

A few days later, I stopped by the Petone St Vinnies and bought three patterns for 60¢ (paid them $3—they're a charity, after all). I decided on New Look 6754 for a top in this fabric, view D with sleeves from view C.

Because there wasn't quite enough water lily fabric for the length of the top, I made a contrast band of the plain fabric at the hem, then also used it for the neck binding and lastly, as visual balance, bound the sleeve hems as well.

Very happy with the results, and it looks awesome with my camel riding shorts.
And if I'd known about Scraptember ... oh well, maybe next year!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Another Tara - Vintage Vogue 1103 in burgundy

Previously, I've mentioned buying vintage patterns via TradeMe from Tara and her mother. Vogue 1103 was the very first. The instance I saw the jacket I fell in love and hit "Buy Now", knowing there was a piece of fabric in the stash that would be perfect for it.

Because I wasn't sure what to use for closures, it remained unmade for nearly six months. Eventually, I spying the large hook and bars in The Fabric Warehouse, which is also where the wool/cashmere fabric and rayon lining had come from sometime earlier.
Once cut, it took only an afternoon to sew together, even those eight slashed-pivot point seams (see image below) weren't as tricky as I thought they would be. So I felt it justified prick-stitching (or pick stitch) the facings by hand.

The finished jacket is every bit as good as I hoped it would be. I'm wearing it daily at the moment (explains the rumpled lining!). It's terrific for this time of year when the mornings and evenings are still chilly, but not so much you need a full winter's coat.
And while I was taking photos, this was happening at my feet...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Vintage Simplicity 3107 in a teal striped wool

Towards the end of winter, I made a dress using vintage pattern Simplicity 3107 in a teal striped wool. However, because I went to Brisbane for a wedding at the end of August, then the weather was warming up once I returned, I kind-of put it in the wardrobe and forgot about it. Until it got ridiculously cold last Monday. It was a nice suprise to find something new and fresh on a miserable "what-am-I-going-to-wear?" morning.

Black patient leather belt from Veronika Maine.
I've had the fabric for a good 20 years, another gift from Jeannie. It was pale grey - a colour I'm a little unsure about with my colouring, especially now I'm letting the silvers grown out on my head. So I dyed it teal, and love it, although it didn't take quite as much dye as I hoped, so it must be blend of some discription. It has a subtle diagonal stripe, which I cut to form a X on the front.
I can't remember where the pattern came from (TradeMe? OpShop?) but I followed the handwritten advice on the envelope ("straight skirt gd. fit") and made version 2, with version 1 sleeves. The only thing I changed was putting the zip in the front instead of back - there's a seam there anyway, so why not us it, right? Really like the finished dress, nice and comfy yet still looks professional. A definite "keep me" pattern to be used again in the future.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The inkblot test blouse

The Fabric Warehouse had a pop-up store on Lambton Quay last year and I couldn't resist this ultra cheap cotton/silk blend. I've been hankering for another blouse like this one, which I wore constantly last summer.

Once again New Look 6144 was used, shortened to blouse length and without front and back waist darts. This time I eliminated the centre back seam and put a zip upside down in the side seam, so the hem opens.
Apart from the fabric snagging on multiple needles and pins, it went together quickly in one afternoon, thankfully – after the DK skirt debacle I needed a success! And they look terrific together.

Pearl necklace from Singapore
Of course, when I tried it on after completion, I pulled it straight over my head without opening the zip, so will remove it in the future because it's a little bulky. Also, I didn't have quite enough fabric for a decent tie belt but as I'll probably wear the blouse tucked in, I'm not too worried. Anyway, for some reason I made a flower out of the remaining scraps, so that rules out putting in an extension. Maybe I'll look for a buckle...

Donna Karan – U.O.Me 1 reel of topstitching thread – black. Thank you.

Boy, oh boy, oh boy! V1324 from the Donna Karan collection for Vogue. What can I say?
Because the first garment I made for an actual human (not a doll) was a skirt; because I've been sewing a very long time, and have literally made hundreds over the (gulp!) decades, I thought if there's any garment I can make without a toilé, its a skirt. WRONG!
I wish I was wise enough to check online reviews of imminent projects before launching gung ho into them.  If I'd read this or this or even this I'd have been weary. But I didn't. And ended up with this:

What the...? I'm sorry, Donna, if you're going to offer up your designs to the masses (especially at Vogue Designer premium prices), you need to toilé them on real women. 6ft tall models are the exception, not the median.
So, after unpicking row after row after row of black topstitching and wacking in enough safety pins to rival Liz Hurley, I had this:

To remove the poocheness, I've dropped the entire front by 2cm, curving the front seams back into the original seam allowance at the point where the two seams meet. Plus the darts have been eliminated entirely as they became unnecessary. Chalk marks denote the finished stitching lines. While I was at it I ripped out the zip and dropped the centre back by 1.5cm - have a slight sway back which usually doesn't need adjustments but this pattern seemed to emphasis it. Also, all seam allowances below the hips were decreased from 1.5cm to 1cm so I can actually walk in the skirt.
But it didn't end there! Trying it on after all those adjustments, I spied the hem dipping down in the front. Fortunately, last week I picked up a chalk puff hem marker for $10 from the Sallies, and 5 minutes later was loping a massive 3cm off the front hem, sloping back to nothing at side back seams.
Finally, one year later, I have this:

Luckily, I like it. May even make it again in denim. (This time it's made in Italian worsted wool, but because I've lightened the pix so the details are more visible, unfortunately it look washed out.)
UFO over and out.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I sew slow and I like it that way

Recently, I read a blog post by a very prolific seamstress on sewing fast. I need to express a different view point. You see, I'm a leisurely crafter, and have reasons for being so. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly capable of sewing fast – use to earn a crust doing so, after all. Sometimes, there are "fast" garments made in between the ones you'll find here. I just personally find them about as interesting as a stack of dirty dishes, and therefore can't be bothered blogging about them.

The garments I do blog about are the ones I enjoy sewing, garments of quality that take time to construct. All are one-offs; all are hand-finished; most are fully lined; many are my own design, while others are from tricky vintage patterns; many are also made using vintage fabrics and trims that demand careful handling.

I love discovering and employing new/old couture techniques which help garments fit and hang beautiful, techniques you would never see in mass producted "fast fashion". Techniques such as waist stays, dress shields and weights I use on a regular basis. Then there's techniques like this which get my creative juices flowing: —how did they do that? —what difference does it make to a garment? —how can I incorporate this technique into a future creation?

But most importantly, I wear ALL the garments I blog about. Regularly. Which is why I take time constructing them. They're built to last. I like to dream they'll eventually pass to someone who understands the effort thats gone into their creation, and will treasure them as much as I do. However, my wardrobe isn't overflowing even though I'm always making something. Because I focus on quality, not quantity.

As tempting as it may be to to churn out a whole heap of "fast" garments for the sake of having more regular blog posts, thats not what I'm trying to acheive. Yes, I should post images of couture techniques I use - generally they aren't visible unless you climb right inside the garment. I should also link you to tutorials explaining these techniques. But I won't re-invent the wheel by create my own tutorials unless I can't find a good one already online (such as with my Spanish Snap Buttonhole tutorial).

So, if you're a slow sewer like me - hey! It's OK! Don't beat yourself up about it - sewing isn't a race. Take all the time you need. You and your garments are worth it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

For Tara's mother – tie dyed Vogue 5558

From time to time I buy a pattern off TradeMe. It can be a bit of a gamble; you never know what condition they are in, and unfortunately I have received incomplete patterns. Some, I suspect, are commodities from dealers who don't know (or care) much about sewing. Others are from crafters like ourselves, who cherish their patterns like precious jewels.
Tara's mother was one such lady. I was lucky enough to strike up a little rapport with Tara during our trading, and discovered her mother had won Benson and Hedge Fashion Design Awards in the late '60's (in the "High Fashion" and "Evening Wear" sections). I didn't like to ask why she was selling off her mothers patterns, but they arrived in terrific condition, a testament to her mother's care.

Vogue 5558 is one of the patterns. As usual, I made a wearable toilé - luckily, because thinking the pattern would be a bit too small I added ease, only to find I really didn't need to. I prefer the neck to tie on the right so flipped those pattern pieces.

The fabric is lightweight wool, the remnant of a bulk purchase from The Fabric Warehouse many years ago (already made into two shirts). It was originally very pale salmon pink in colour, which is a terrific base colour for dyeing, as it slightly "muddies" the new colour. 

The remnant was already dyed blue, but since I was making a toilé I decided to have a little fun and tie-dye the piece. Using the book "Contemporary Batik and Tie-dye" by Dona Z. Meilach as a guide, I roughly pleated the fabric, then tied in a fairly even criss-cross style. Next time to allow more dye to penetrate, I won't tie so closely or tightly, but I'm happy with the result for this toilé. So, a win-win!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to make dress shields - removable and reusable!

Dress shields attach to the underarms of a garment protecting it from perspiration stains. I make and use them regularly for garments made in precious fabrics I don't wish to wash/dryclean more than necessary, such as "Jeannie’s wool houndstooth dress".
Claire B Shaeffer briefly describes how to make them on pages 132/3 in her book "Couture Sewing Techniquesbut I have a slightly different technique worthy of a tutorial.
First, gather your materials. You'll need a dress, blouse or jacket pattern (any womens' size, armhole scyes are pretty much consistent), pen or pencil, paper (newspaper will do), pins, soft cotton fabric (I'm using old pillowcases here), thread, sewing machine, sewing needles, and 8 domes (sew on snap fasteners). Plus a garment to attach them to!

Take the front and back bodice pieces of your pattern and pin them together at the side seam. Pin onto the paper (newspaper) and trace the underarm seam from front (B) to back (A) notches (approximately 18cm/7 inches).

Remove pattern pieces and from the centre point (C), mark down about 10cm/4 inches (D). Freehand draw a nice scoop between points A, D and B. It doesn't need to be perfect - no one's going to see these! When your happy with the shape, cut it out.

Cut 4 of this shape out of your cotton fabric. Add an extra 1cm (or 1/2 inch) to the scoop edge and cut another 8 - if you're making shields to use in a jacket, you can cut half of these out of lining. This will make one pair of shields.

Place a small piece onto a large piece, matching armhole seams and sew around scoop edge. Do this to all 4 small pieces. Then sew 2 of these pieces together along armhole seam; and again for the other two. Sew the remaining pairs (without smaller bits) together along armhole seams. Clip and press seams open.

Now make a pair of shields by matching the halves with smaller bits to the halves without. Make sure the smaller bits are sandwiched between the layers. Overlock/serge or zigzag around the whole outside scoop edge.

Next, make a cup of tea, put on your favourite DVD and put your feet up for some hand sewing! Sew one side of domes (snap fasteners) at points A, B and D (there will be double D's (tee, hee) on each shield) and its partner onto the garment in the corresponding points, which should be approximately 10cm down each side seam, 10cm down each underarm seam, and at front and back armhole notches. Snap together and you're done!

If you need a bit more protection you can increase the number of smaller bits sandwiched in the middle, or use a layer of winceyette or light towelling instead.
Also, sewing the shields in thread the colour of your garment makes it easier to match back to the correct garment when they come out of the laundry.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Merino cardigan from the scrap bag

Some time ago I made this tunic top with lace inset
I'm not sure where the merino came from originally, but it must have been relatively cheap, because there was quite a bit left-over in the stash, enough to make a semi-fitted cardigan.

I made the pattern by tracing a sweater onto paper, then cutting a bit off the bottom of the pattern for a hip band, a bit off the centre fronts for front plackets (mainly because there wasn't quite enough fabric, otherwise I would have extended the fronts to create fold back facings), a bit off the sleeves for cuffs and did some dodgy arithmetic to work out how long the neckband needed to be. If you try this method for yourself, remember to add seam allowances before you cut your fabric.
Czechoslovakian glass buttons complete the cardigan - a wonderful find in Taupo of all places!

If your wondering why my mannequin is covered in black lycra, I've finally put a little junk in her trunk, using this tutorial and a bunch of old shoulder pads. Garments hang much better now she has a realistic shape!

Merino cardigan from a snagged jersey

One of my cats is a “Hemingway cat”. Amazing as his big paws are, he has problems shedding the claws on his extra digits. If they haven’t been clipped in a while, he snags soft furnishings, carpets, clothing. Demonstrated here.

Unfortunately, a fairly new jersey of Sunny's fell victim to a loving cuddle with snaggle-puss, and was rendered unwearable by a big hole and ladder down the front.
Too good to throw out, I recut it into a bolero style cardigan for myself. The pattern is one of my own, adjusted to fit the confines of the original jersey, including extra seams in discreet places (like the facings) because there was only just enough fabric. I’ve got no idea where the fastenings came from, they've been hanging out in "the trims stash" for so long.
 Since finishing last week, I've wore it several times already, it's so versatile. A welcome addition to my wardrobe.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Indian adventures

Between Sunny and I we amassed so many beautiful photos of our time in India, we decided to create a separate blog to share them with the world.

And here are a few shots as a preview.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Vogue 5782 in Jeannie’s houndstooth

Back in September I toiléd Vogue 5782 in polished cotton for TMS “Vintage Patterns” challenge. This months ‘Sewing Double’ challenge has given me the incentive to finally make it up in the very precious piece of vintage wool houndstooth I talked about then, which has been lurking in my stash for (ahem) a good couple of decades. It was given to me by my favourite tutor - Jeannie Gander* - when I studied Fashion Design years ago; goodness knows how long she had it for. While I appreciated what a beautiful piece of wool it was, it wasn’t particularly fashionable at that time, hence being stashed for so long.

This time I cut the whole dress on the bias, made the sleeves 3/4 length, and pleated the skirt in the front (darts in back) rather than gathering it onto the bodice as per pattern instructions. It’s lined with a liteweight ruby coloured silk satin, bought from Arthur Toyes last year. I also eliminated the sash belt, as this time I think the leather belt works better.

* Jeannie Gander established the clothing design course at Wellington Polytechnic which over the years evolved into the popular Massey School of Fashion. Ever stylish, Jeannie mentored many young men and women, including several of todays leading New Zealand fashion designers. Sadly, she was forced from the course she created, loved and nurtured for decades when it was taken over by Massey University. You see, Jeannie was from the old school of life, and had no tertiary qualifications suitable to hold a position at a University. Ironically, these positions would be filled by students she trained. 
Thank you, Jeannie, I may no longer be working in the clothing field myself, but I think of you and use skills you taught every time I pick up a needle.
BTW, had a fantastic time in India. Check out the pix here -

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Camel riding shorts...

...or maybe not.
Waaay back in Froctober, you may remember, besides a frock, I was also busy making a pair of shorts to wear camel riding in Pushkar during my trip to India (which was AWESOME, btw!) 
Luckily, I read a travel guide during packing, because it advised women travelling in Rajasthan to keep their shoulders and knees covered.

Yeap, those are my knees. 

Nowhere to hide them it these shorts. 
They didn’t make it into the suitcase.
All is not lost though, they’ve slipped quite nicely into the work wardrobe and are being worn on a regular basis this summer.