Monday, December 14, 2015

Indian Travel: why I will take anti-malarial tablets

If you'd asked me a couple of months ago if I'd be taking anti-malarial tablets in India this time, I would have replied "No". 
However, I'll be travelling in the Tamil Nadu region and will pass through Chennai, where there was flooding earlier this month. And everyone knows malaria is a waterborne disease.
Even though they make me feel ghastly, I'm not going to take any unnecessary risks. 
I feel it's inconsiderate to expect India to provide emergency medical care for foolish tourists who wish to play Russian Roulette with their lives. We in the West have so many advantages that there's really no reason not to take responsibility for ourselves.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

"What all the Stylish Travellers are wearing in India this year"

It's been a dilemma deciding which hat to take to India this time, because - although it's winter - temperatures in the south this time of the year are late 20's to early 30's celsius (which equals a really good summers day in New Zealand!). 
Much to-ing and fro-ing has taken place, eventually narrowed down to a toss-up between a cotton sunhat I took last time (too warm, have really unattractive photos of me in front of the Taj Mahal with sweaty helmet-hair plastered to my skull) and a cap from the San Diego Zoo (screams !!!TOURIST!!!), both unappealing options.
Finally, after another look through the hat box, I found this:

My "Christmas Hat" - a $5 paper Trilby from Cotton On several years ago, usually decorated with a necklace of flashing christmas lights wrapped around the crown.
But it needed personalizing. So off came the naff black cotton bias binding trim, and on with a lovely piece of blue and white striped grosgrain ribbon from Made Marion. It was the lovely MrsC herself who jokingly gave me the title for this post while we discussed my plans.

Not sure at the time exactly what I would be creating, I bought a metre ($7) to give me plenty to play with, and in the end needed that whole metre. It took about a hour to replace (half of that was picking all the bits of glue off the hat left by the original trim) - a little Googling for ideas, a bit of steaming to shape the ribbon into a curve, snip snip, fold the bow and pleat, and a couple of stitches to hold it all in place. 

Done, and doesn't it look terrific!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

For the family - "Boyhood spent in cliff-top castle brought dramas" by Caroline Martin

The cousins at Cargill's castle, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Reproduced with kind permission from Caroline Martin.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A cautionary tale - becoming a VoPIF with vintage Vogue 5434

What's a VoPIF, I hear you ask. A Victim of Pattern Illustration Fraud - when the allure of the envelope image does not match the reality.  Eventually every stitcher will become a VoPIF, the most experienced amongst us will have fallen victim more than once. Vintage Vogue 5434 from the 1960's has victimized me yet again.

The tale starts with a wedding invitation. Guests are requested to dress colourfully - "as bright as a garden of summer flowers". Into the stash I headed, where a piece of dupion silk in a stunning red has been languishing for far too long. (Showed a swatch to the bride as wearing red to a wedding can be considered inappropriate, but she's thrilled. Colour is actually several shades darker than it appears in these photos.)  I also pulled out a piece of burgundy frangipani print cotton to make a wearable toilé and Vogue 5434 from my pattern collection.

After a few adjustments to the sizing, I whizzed together the frangipani toilé dress - love the skirt, but the bodice just doesn't cut the mustard. The neckline is too high, and the pleats which looked so stylish on the envelope are in reality very "roomy". (I kept patting them into place during fitting.) Another toilé bodice was cut with a lower neckline and less fullness in the pleats, but wasn't much better. After toying with the idea of cutting yet another toilé bodice, I decided to abandon it completely for the moment because I'm running out of time, and instead replace it altogether with a trusted bodice from an old favourite pattern - Style 1751 from 1990. 
Boldly cutting straight into the silk I made one change - a simplified neckline - best leave sweethearts to the bride and bridesmaids!

Very happy with the results, and because using this bodice pattern was much more economical ,there's enough silk left over to make a shrug jacket as well. As for the frangipani dress, I can't decided whether to leave the bodice as is, or change it as well. Your thoughts?

So, in conclusion everyone lived happily ever after.
The end.
Oh, and the accessories. Jewellery still to be decided.

Please feel free to share your own VoPIF stories in the comments below. I for one would appreciate warnings about patterns that don't live up to expectations!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Sewing for the soul - Simplicity 5670

Sewing is my happy place, my zen, my bliss. And after the crappiest of crappy weekends, it's also my salvation.

You see, my 10 year old niece - Petal* - has spent the weekend in intensive care at the Children's Hospital in Brisbane.

It all started with the 'flu. Things took a turn for the worst on Friday evening. Her mother looked in on her before going to bed, and discovered Petal in a distressed state, struggling to breathe, with bloated face, arms and hands. She immediately rushed her to hospital, where she was admitted upon arrival.

Wellington being two hours ahead of Brisbane, it was early Saturday morning before I heard the news. By then the hospital staff had found fluid on Petal's lungs and high levels of protein in her kidneys, in addition to extremely high blood pressure. She was transferred to the Children's Hospital during the day, but was unable to be taken off the high oxygen-mix, so remained in intensive care.

My day past in a fog. How the usual weekend chores were done, I really can't remember. Night fell, the fire was lit, dinner was eaten. There was another update to say her condition hadn't improved.

Faced with a night of sleeplessness, I turned to my sewing pile. Next up was a dress I need to make for a wedding I'll soon be attending, but it just didn't seem the appropriate thing to make given the circumstances. Instead, I chose another shirt, red linen/rayon and Simplicity 5670 from 1982. Using view 4 as the base, I changed quite a bit - released the pintucks below the bust, shortened the full front placket (actually, I cut 4 sleeve cuffs and used two as the new plackets), left off the collar, using only the stand, shortened the sleeves to 3/4 length, and lengthened the hem by 20cm.

So in a blur, I sewed. Pintucks, plackets, topstitching, french seams, collar - on, then unpicked at centre fronts and lowered by 1.5cm. By then my eyes were heavy so I finished the night by chalking and pressing up the hems.

Sleep came and went. Sunday morning dawned chilly and bright. Another update - still no improvement, but with a dreadful suggestion of an illness that - like the Harry Potter books - shall forever remain unspoken.

A comforting shroud descended with the whirring of the sewing machine. Collar fixed and topstitched, hems too. French seams for sleeve heads then side seams. Neat - like the neat kid on the gurney 2,500km away.

Sleeve bands, a final press, photography in the garden for a change.

No word.

I had to keep going, find more to do. Did I believe my stitches could mend a child by proxy? "Yeah, Naa", that fabulous/irritating Kiwi saying. Yeah?

Ahh, mending, hole in sweater, dropped trouser hems, missing buttons replaced.
Finally, finally, deep into the evening, the update. The swelling was receding, Petal's poor battered little body was now accepting a lower flow of oxygen. While the chest x-ray was still bad, she was about to be moved to the pediatric ward. 

Blessed relief.

Today, Petal is slowly showing signs of improvement - eating, propped up in bed, asking to see her little brother, whom she adores - she really is that neat a kid.

It will be a week until we know for sure whether there's permanent damage to heart, kidneys, lungs. Cross your fingers and kiss your kids.

All because of the 'flu.

* Name has been changed.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Two shirts to wear in India - Style 2568 and Simplicity 7521

I'm travelling to India once again at the end of the year, during their winter. This time I'm heading south, where the temperatures will be warmer, estimated between 17-33°C. During the Rajasthan visit two years ago temperatures were between 7-23°C, so I spent most of the time wearing jeans and layering several merino sweaters on and off, one over the top of the other.
Conservative dress is advisable in India, which I don't have a problem with (working corporate requires conservative dress anyway). Nothing too tight or revealing, keep shoulders and knees covered, plus if your wearing trousers, cover "the shape of your backside and front". Remember my camel riding shorts which were wisely left behind?
I bought kurtis (tunics) and had a salwar-kameez (tunic and pants suit) made last time, but it's looking unlikely I'll have a chance to shop before my tour starts. So I decided to make a couple of shirts using fabrics and patterns from the stash to tide me over, light enough to wear in the heat, while also offering some shade from the sun.

Simplicity 7521 (from 1978) is very much like a kurti style tunic. The fabric was given to me by a lovely woman I met in a St Vinnies store. After doing a burn test, I'm thinking it may be a light weight wool - it's just a bit scratchy, and steams beautifully. I lengthened the tunic to knee length and left off the sleeves cuffs, instead gathering them into an elasticated band. I also added a couple of waist darts in the back for some subtle shaping. The contrasting neck and sleeve bands are simply the wrong side of the fabric. Bonus, the fabric has flecks of blue, green and grey in it, which matches nicely to these navy linen-cotton trousers.

My original intention was to make the second shirt using the same pattern. However, because the fabric was originally a sundress, when I laid the pattern out I discovered while there was plenty of width, there wasn't enough length. Eventually, I settled on Style 2568 from 1979. I always loved the fabric - a lovely soft lawn, and do like the resulting shirt, however I feel like I have gone from one extreme to the the other in styles. There was something about the fabric and pattern choice of the sundress that always made me feel like mutton dressed as lamb. Now I feel like I'm wearing Grandma's gardening shirt! It does look surprisingly good tucked into a pencil skirt though, so I'm sure to get some wear out of it.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Miramar moon

Moon through the Miramar cutting

Monday, July 27, 2015

Wellington Blown Away

It's graffiti-proof, apparently.
Wellington "Blown Away" sign, Miramar cutting

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Kelly Coat – vintage Style 1671

As soon as I saw the coat fabric in The Fabric WarehouseI snapped up a few metres - that green! What a colour! At that stage I had no idea what style coat to make, but just HAD TO HAVE IT. However, it shrank badly in it's pre-wash (a good 20cm+ per metre), and of course by then the store had sold out of it. With the right pattern and some carefully cutting I knew there was still just enough to make a coat, I just had to be patient until things fell into place. So, into the stash it went for some years, to be admired and fondled at regular intervals, with dreams of what it could become.

Finally, with some tricky edits to vintage pattern Style 1671 (from 1976), the dream has been realised. The length is about half way between the jacket and coat illustrated on the pattern cover, but unfortunately I had to eliminate the centre back pleat. There are side seam pockets and the belt is cobbled together out of scraps, with joins cleverly disguised under belt loops. And I used the Spanish Snap Buttonholes technique again.

If I were to use this pattern again I'd repeat the yoke shaping on the front, as I really like this detail, especially topstitched. Also I'd modernise the collar shape from it's the classic huge 70's style. For it to stand up as pictured it's tacked down around the back from shoulder seam to shoulder seam, otherwise it falls flat and is really wide!

NB. I've replaced the shoulder pads with smaller ones since the photo shot - could only find mens pads late on night I was doing the finishing touches, and of course I wanted to wear it the next day!

But it's my colour, Mum!

Monday, June 8, 2015

"Smashing frock!" "Thanks, I made it." - Simplicity 8498

Bead necklace from Farmers
Well, I certainly restocked the stash thanks to the latest Fabric-a-Brac. Two pieces of wool crêpe, metres of quality linen in two colour ways, and metres of black lining with white line-drawn chrysanthemums.
I was so excited to find this piece of purple wool crêpe, I bought it straight away, knowing exactly what it was going to make - another of Tara's patterns, Simplicity 8498 from 1969. There was barely enough fabric to make view 2, so initially I was going to make it sleeveless, but managed to squeeze out (shortened) short sleeves. Also had just enough to add the obligatory pocket...
The first fitting was nearly perfect, only adjustment was to shorten the bust darts so they weren't so pointy. I loved the dress so much it was deemed worthy of a lining, which was found on the sales table at Spotlight - $3 metre for a liteweight lilac-coloured silk! (You can see a bit inside the left sleeve.)
My colleges compliment me whenever I wear this to work. I find empire waists very flattering, and the stitching lines adds interest to what is essentially a very simple frock.
Simplicity 8498 is definitely a keeper.

Discovered this has been reprinted as Simplicity 3833

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Getting to grips with The Stash

Like every other stitcher on the planet, I have The Stash. I'm pretty successful at limiting it only to nana's wardrobe, but it regularly gets close to saturation point – like now, and there's another Fabric-a-Brac in 2 weeks!
So last weekend I got stuck in and purged. I tell you, I was ruthless. All those "one day..." bits ("one day I might need it for xyz...", "one day, when I have time..." you get the picture) – out they went. Metres and metres of lycra (pretty much every garment I made in the '90s was out of lycra—ahh, to be young and slim again!), a pile of "what-the-heck-was-I-thinking?" and "where-on-earth-did-this-come-from?", and then there was the pattern stash...
All in all, 4 boxes of fabrics and 2 bags of patterns were donated to Fabric-a-Brac, plus another 3 bags of clothes made their way into the Child Cancer bin down the road. There's now so much room in the wardrobe I can fit all my patterns and trims inside as well.

While I was at it, I measured and photographed most of the remaining stash, and made myself a "stash flash card".
I'm so proud of myself, I think I deserve a treat – roll on 2 May!

Update 28/04/15: unexpected bonus – SunnyJim got inspired and had a sort-out in the study Anzac weekend. Can actually see the spare bed now!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A new workhorse – Vogue 1267

workhorse: something that's useful and durable, a dependable performer under heavy or prolonged use.
There's been a piece of navy-blue wool blend rattling around in the stash for a while which was bought on impulse at one of the Fabric Warehouse's sales. Decent quality wool blends are good staple fabrics to have if you work corporate, especially in navy, grey and black. I've also had Vogue 1267 for a while. It took the need to replace a workhorse on it's last legs for me to connect the dots and put the two together.

Belt from Portmans
I changed a few things from the pattern. To make it more work-appropiate, I straightened the high-low hem (felt it would date quickly), adding a kick pleat in the back so there's still plenty of room to walk comfortably. I also added small cap sleeves and changed to a V-neckline - I'm not fond of clothing up around my neck. After the initial fitting I also moved the point of the dart closest to the neckline 1cm further away and extended all of the shoulder darts 1–2cm towards the bust point as they all seemed to stop a bit short.
Very happy with the finished dress which turned out exactly how I imagined, and as you can see by the wrinkles, it's already in use.
Although I manipulated the original pattern by chalking straight onto the fabric to make adjustments to this version, I did keep a record of everything I did (luckily!) because I have a hunch I'll probably re-use it again in the not too distant future.
Off to have a look in the stash…
Also had a bit of a scissor sharpening fiasco recently, which ended happily when Andrew at Knife Edge Sharpening Service put it all right. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Paisley frock - New Look 6942

Each christmas, I like to make a new frock to wear to my families knees-up, something bright and breezy with plenty of room to accommodate all the yummy food thats on offer.

This years dress is made using fabric bought through TradeMe in New Look 6942 which is yet another of my St Vinnies purchases.

Although I love this frock and it gets heaps of compliments, its the fabric that "makes it". I doubt I'll use the pattern again - the under bust seams fall in the wrong place for me, the side seams swing to the front at the hem, and the facings kept flapping open at the neckline (hence the beads - the only way I could think of to nicely hold it closed without unpicking). And to be honest, as I've got so many other unused patterns I like more than this one, I can't justify spending the time correcting it.

As the saying goes, “You win some, you lose some.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Going dotty – Burda 7253 (shortened)

Haere Mai! Welcome to 2015!
Here in Wellington (actually, most of New Zealand) we've been blessed with the most glorious weather since the start of the new year. Hence, lots of time outdoors and not much at the sewing machine. However, I do have a bit of catching-up to do with things made between this post and the last.

First up is another summery top for work. The fabric was a last minute purchase at Fabric-a-Brac I wanted to spend every cent of the $50 I took, so offered the last $3.60 to the vendor for this piece, which they happily accepted. (BTW, bought loads of lovely fabric and quite a bit of thread for my $50.) I normally don't look twice at viscose but couldn't pass up the cheery print and colours.
I managed to squeeze a shortened Burda 7253 and a tie belt out of the teeny tiny scrap with a bit of difficulty. The grain was completely up the wop and no amount of tugging and steaming could get it straight; eventually I crossed my fingers and cut, hoping no one would ever notice it was off grain because of the crazy circles.
Eliminating the back seam and zipper made it was super speedy to put together, yet it still slips easily over my head without them. I'd nearly settled on a black button, before deciding to have one last look in a precious box of my grandmothers buttons, where I found three darling little clear glass buttons. Because the buttons are purely for decoration (there's no buttonhole) I stitched them close together to look sort of like a brooch. Lastly, after a couple of wears, I added fabric belt loops to hold the belt in place.
This is my favourite of the three tops I made recently. It works just as well with a skirt as it does with jeans. Plus, it used pretty much every inch of fabric = nothing left to add to the scrap bag. Don't you love it when that happens!