Friday, 2 December 2016

Merchant and Mills Camber Set


A couple of months ago, fellow Perth sewer @homesewnstuff put a call out for bra foam for her Sophie swimsuit. I had some spare so offered it to her and she gave me the Camber Set pattern in return - how awesome is that?! This dress is just my style.


I wanted to make it from this green Irish linen that I had bought in Singapore, but I only had one metre. I managed to just squeeze the pattern on to the fabric, but had to piece together the back yoke and line the yoke with white cotton. I changed the neckline to a V-neck, as I prefer a lower neckline, and made a cotton facing to finish it off.


Once the dress was finished, I decided the colour needed a bit of a boost. It was feeling kind of washed out (below). The obvious choice was to dunk it into my indigo dye vat, with which I have been experimenting lately with great vigour. I will have to write about that soon as it's all very exciting. Well at least it is to me. Be prepared for all my future clothes to be blue!


I didn't want to completely lose the original colour of this dress, so I just dyed the the top portion. I lowered it into the dye to chest level and slowly out to create an ombre effect. Indigo dye works quite quickly, so I began slowly lifting the dress out as soon as it had gone in. I counted the seconds and lifted at a rate of about half a centimetre per second, so the shoulders were only in for about a minute. My indigo is quite light, so the effect is subtle, but I think the dye it gives the dress a lift.


After wearing the dress, I decided it needed pockets, so I pieced together two pockets from my tiny scraps and sewed them on.


Perfect and just in time for summer. Thanks @homesewnstuff for the excellent pattern!

Friday, 11 November 2016

The Pattern Review (PR) Lillian Dress and Top


I was very happy recently to be offered the new pattern by Pattern Review - the Lillian dress and top. Deepika at Pattern Review kindly offered her newest pattern to all the contestants from Round three of the PR Sewing Bee competition. I didn't make it past Round three, so this was a very welcome consolation prize!


I love knit dresses and live in them throughout the summer. If I'm not in a dress, chances are I'm in a t-shirt, so this pattern ticks all the boxes. The unique feature of this pattern is the front bib panel, which provides lovely shaping and fit and offers endless opportunities for colour blocking. Clearly there is no colour blocking in my dress. Instead, I sewed pintucks into the front panel before cutting the pattern piece, for some subtle detail.


This fabric is spandex/rayon from a local designer sale at Morrison. It is a gorgeous, soft, drapey, two-way stretch fabric, but unfortunately does get an imprint from pressing (above), even though I used a pressing cloth.


My first project with this pattern was a t-shirt to test the fit. I was between sizes and decided to size down to the Small. I am super happy with the fit. The sleeves on the t-shirt were made according to the pattern and cup the shoulders perfectly. However, I noticed that if I raised, then lowered, my arms, the sleeves stayed in the raised position. For the dress, I slashed and spread the sleeve piece in three places (to gain approx. 2cm total) to open them out a bit. I also cut four sleeve pieces for the dress, so the sleeves are a double layer without a hem. I am pleased with the way the sleeves turned out on the dress. The only other change I made was to lengthen the dress by 5cm.



I tried to lighten these pictures, but they are still a bit dark to see the details. There is a slight pooling of fabric at the lower back, but this doesn't bother me.


The dress has a bound V-neck, which was easy to sew. All the instructions were very clear and the pattern is well thought out, with the PDF pattern only taking up 16 printed pages! I also love that the pattern is named after Lillian Weber, who sewed over 1000 dresses for African girls. PR will donate 20% of the proceeds from this pattern to the 'Little Dresses for Africa' charity.


I just love this dress. The fit is fabulous and the unlimited options with the front panel are very exciting. I will definitely be making more of these. Thank you PR!


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Thoughts on sewing, fashion and Ready To Wear (RTW)




Yesterday, like many women across Australia, I attended a beautiful Melbourne Cup lunch. The event was held in a stunning location overlooking the river. The weather was perfect and, with some of my favourite people, I happily drank champagne and watched as the ladies arrived in their finery.

Just to be clear, I hardly ever attend fancy events, which is probably why I looked forward to and enjoyed this one so much. Also, I do not support horse racing. For me, this was all about fun, friends and fashion. Oh and food, let's not forget the food!

So what to wear to such an event? For me it was definitely going to be something I'd made. I tried on the contenders the day before and decided on my StyleArc Toni Designer Dress. I then found some of the leftover fabric and whipped up a fabric flower to clip into my hair. Frivolous fascinators of some sort are pretty much compulsory for the Melbourne Cup!



Everyone looked gorgeous and we all admired each others' outfits. I got the usual eye-rolling from my friends when they asked if I'd made my outfit. I can never understand why they think sewing is such an amazing and elusive talent. Isn't it just a series of simple steps, and incredibly enjoyable ones at that? I was just hoping that the slightly-too-stiff interfacing I'd used at my neckline wasn't too obvious. The girls then chatted about the terrible time they have finding a lovely dress that is age appropriate and not outrageously expensive. Apparently pretty much everything out there either exposes way too much or looks Mother-of-the-bride. "Where can we find dresses that suit someone in between those extremes?" asked one friend. "You need to start a label and call it 'Stuck in the Middle'". The same friend then told me that she'd recently spent $70 having a dress hem taken up and a split lowered, only to find afterwards that the hem didn't even match on either side of the split!!!

I pondered this as I sat down in my home made dress, made from op shop fabric, that had cost me less than $10 plus my time. I don't count the time really as it's always spent so contentedly when I'm sewing. However, I would count my time if I was producing clothes to sell or doing alterations. I've done it before and, for me, it does suck the enjoyment out of sewing.

After lunch and the horse race, the entertainment continued in the form of a fashion parade. I love fashion parades and this one refreshingly featured non-professional models (real people!) with a range of ages and body types. As luck would have it, they were modelling clothes from a local boutique catering to the 'Stuck in the Middle' clientele. 

I am very out of touch with the offerings of boutiques these days as, apart from the supermarket, I only ever enter fabric shops or op shops. As the outfits came out I found myself scrutinising the fit and the fabrics, the pattern placement and the pattern matching. Things leapt out at me that most people just have to settle for: dresses that fitted at the hips and gaped at the bust; something in a spangly polyester that would have been stunning (and far more comfortable) in silk; a dress with a stripe placed unflatteringly at the hip that would have look so much better at the waist. The more I saw, the more I appreciated the sewing skills and experience I have (and lamented the sewing snob I've become!). 



As I joined the coffee queue afterwards, a lovely lady admired my flower and commented on how well it matched my dress. 'They must have come together' she said. 'Oh, I made them' I mumbled, my hand fluttering to my interfacing. But I shouldn't have mumbled, or fluttered. I was rocking a one-of-a-kind dress (and flower) that cost less and was more lovingly made than any RTW dress in the room. I had chosen the fabric and pattern. I'd put the print exactly where I wanted it and made sure it matched up at the seams. I'd chosen a loose fit to accommodate lunch, but if I'd felt like wearing a fitted dress I could have graded between sizes and tweaked the fit until it was perfect pretty blinking good, not to mention making adjustments to hide my lumpy bits.

I'm starting to think that sewing is actually a lot more than just a series of enjoyable construction steps. Not that it's hard, I think anyone could and should learn how to do it, but actually making something forces you to think about fit and fabric. An embarrassing error teaches you the importance of pattern placement. A twisted leg seam or a puckered hem highlights the need to watch grainlines and press properly and a last minute requirement for a fascinator forces you to get creative and rip off a strip of fabric to make one. I realised yesterday that sewing is a glorious combination of all these things. It gives me the freedom to be unique, to make changes, to take risks, to learn. It gives me the power to say no to spangly, ill-fitting or overpriced RTW. It gives me the incentive to improve a bit more each time I make something. It gives me joy and a reason to say no to the housework. I know it's not for everyone, but I'm sure glad it's for me.

And now to try and fix that damned interfacing!


Update: I've just found out that a home made outfit has won the Fashions in the Field competition at the Melbourne Cup for the second year running. Yay!! 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Jumpers - Burdastyle 02/2016 #121, Named Talvikki and Vogue 8962


As we approached the end of winter in Perth, I was all ready to begin my summer sewing. However, the cold weather dragged on and on through spring this year, so I decided to make just one four more jumpers to wear. I'm so pleased I did, these have been worn constantly over the last few weeks.


First up, this one from the February 2016 issue of Burdastyle magazine. This is the 'High Collar Sweatshirt', No. 121. I loved this design in the magazine and was so keen to make it, when I rediscovered it recently, that I did so despite the fact that I didn't have the collar zips. I assume the zips are there as a practical and decorative feature. Luckily, I can easily get the jumper on and off without having the zips there.

Burdastyle 02/2016 #121

I used oatmeal marle fleece fabric from Fashion Fabrics Club that has been in my fleece drawer for quite some time. It's lovely and cosy. The cord for the drawstring was saved from a boutique paper bag. I always save the cord handles from bags and knew I'd find a use for them one day!


Apart from omitting the zips, the only change I made was to lengthen the cuffs slightly. I used silver grommets for the cord openings.




I was so happy with this jumper that I immediately made another. This time I bought the collar zips and used a striped silver and blue cotton fabric I found on sale in Spotlight. 


I pattern matched the pockets and made a feature of the front panel by offsetting the stripes. The cuffs and hem band are made from navy ribbing.


I was expecting that the addition of the zips to this would enable the top to be worn with different collar variations. However, I don't really like the unzipped look. I don't know if it's the fabric, but it reminds me of the 80s and not in a good way. I don't bother to open the zips when putting this on or off either, so if I made this again it would be zipless.


One last word on the zips - if I were to put them in again, I would probably turn them over so the right side of the zip pulls showed then the collar was turned down. This is personal preference though.


I'm happy with this, but I prefer the plain fleece one.


Next we have another Named Talvikki (my first is blogged here). I love this pattern with the cool neckline darts and side splits. It is also very quick and easy to make.


This one is made from Fleece from Spotlight. I added cuffs with some pale blue piping just for a change.


This has been such a useful addition to my wardrobe. It goes with everything and I love it.


Finally, I made another Vogue 8962 tunic. My first was made with knitted fabric and looks completely different. This one was made with Spotlight fleece that I found reduced from about $25/m to $5/m. It's not my usual style, but it's lovely and soft inside.


I wanted to practise my coverstitching on this pattern as I'm on a mission to get decent coverstitching. It seems to be a skill that is very hit or miss. Coverstitching always seems to work better on thicker or more stable fabric and I had quite good results this time.


I chose orange thread to match the background of the fabric and highlighted the design lines and hems with coverstitching.


I lined the collar with turquoise fabric to match the cheeks of the faces on the fabric.


Although this fabric isn't quite me, the bold print is fun and the style of the tunic is great to wear. I've worn this a lot more than I expected.


OK, I think I've fulfilled my winter quota of sewing now and got good wear out of everything. Now it's time to bring on summer. Come on Perth!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Summer Solstice Set - Naughty Bobbin Patterns


Well this is exciting. My online sewing friend Savage Coco (yes, the designer of the Presto Popover top that took the sewing world by storm last year) has completely rebranded and revamped her website and shop. Coco and I have never met, but have exchanged many emails. She is hilarious and very talented. To celebrate the website launch, Coco has released a pattern combo for this brilliant little Summer Solstice Set, consisting of a skirt, top and bonus cap. Take note Aussie and NZ friends - we don't often get new pattern releases that suit our seasons. We can wear it first for a change!


The new company name is Naughty Bobbin Patterns (formerly Savage Coco Patterns) and you have to visit the website just to see the cool sewing cartoons on the homepage!


Anyway, this set. The skirt is a simple straight design with a smooth elastic waistband and the top is a tank style with a flattering, square neckline that dips lower at the back. The top has a built-in shelf bra and is sewn together in a clever way that creates a completely clean finish inside. Both items are made from knit fabrics. I used ponte for the skirt and cotton jersey for the top. I made a size M with no changes. The fit is spot on and I love that the top completely covers my bra straps from all angles.


But wait, there's more! This is the Coco Cap, which also forms part of the Summer Solstice Set. I am thrilled with this as it gives lovely shade and looks so much better than a normal cap. I made mine from denim scraps left over from the Refashioners 2016 Jeans challenge. I forgot to wear it in the other photos so I tried to take some selfies - not easy when you are trying to show off a hat, I kept trying to look at the camera.


The hat is a great fit and has a back elasticated section that can be adjusted to fit during construction. I have a large head, so I was happy to find that this was big enough. It is lined, but not difficult to make. The brim is stiffened with pellon interfacing. This is not easy to get in Australia. An alternative would be two or three layers of your stiffest interfacing or steal the plastic cover from your child's school exercise book.


I am over the moon with this set and highly recommend it. Everything is well thought out, well fitting, stylish and with clear instructions. The skirt is so comfy and quick to make, I'm going to have one for every day of the week. Congratulations to Naughty Bobbin Patterns!


Thursday, 29 September 2016

PR Sewing Bee Round 3 Challenge - The Colette Rue Dress


I made it to the third round of the PR Sewing Bee! My second round entry is here. The competition is hotting up now and this challenge was a lot harder than the first two. We were to make a Colette Rue dress, but put our own 'spin' on it. This may not sound too bad, but my feeling is that the 'spin' needs to be pretty amazing to make the cut in this round, not to mention the perfect sewing required.

Colette Rue Dress
The Rue Dress is a vintage-inspired design with a fitted bodice and two skirt options. While I love this 40s style on some people, it is not my thing at all. To make this wearable and fitting with my style it needed to be modernised and made into a more flattering shape for my body type. I didn't want to change the pattern too much though. It still needed to retain the essence of the Rue. I thought long and hard about what to do and eventually came up with this design.


I used View B of the pattern with the slimmer skirt. The bodice was redrafted to move the curved pieces away from the centre and towards the sides. The curves were redrawn and the new style lines continued down into the skirt and made into pockets. The sleeves were omitted as we are heading into summer. In addition to the design changes, I needed to make numerous fitting alterations, mainly to the bodice. I wanted the curved pieces below the bust, rather than on it, so that required some fiddling with the two curved pattern pieces and the bust pleats - not easy. I also needed to lengthen the bodice and lower the armholes (complete list of changes available here)

Here are the alterations I made to the two front bodice pieces. This alone took many muslins!




I chose this floral stretch denim fabric bought ages ago from Potter Textiles. The dress is lined with a cream floral cotton voile and the piping is made from polka dot fabric from the shorts I made in Round 1 of the Sewing Bee.


I was as precise and careful as possible with matching the piping at all the seam lines and the neckline. As for the invisible zip, let me just take a bow. I think it's the best I've ever done!




This process was difficult and stressful and took many hours. I often had a houseful of hungry teenage boys and my time limit was reduced by three days as I'm attending a felting course this week. A couple of muslins in, I did contemplate not completing this challenge. I emailed my sister who said that if she'd been doing it, the dress would have been a ball on the floor by now. That suddenly made me realise how long it's been since I hurled a sewing project at the wall (a fairly common occurrence in the early days). My gosh, maybe I have actually come quite a long way, if only in controlling my sewing hissyfits. I was spurred on to finish. Thanks sis!



I am really happy with the finished dress. It is a bit of a departure from my usual style, but still feels like me. My favourite thing is the pockets and how they blend into the new style lines. I am also very proud of the sewing I did here. Fingers crossed I make it to the final round of the competition.

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