Sunday, 22 November 2015

Megan Nielsen Mini Tania Culottes

Living in a house full of boys, I don't get many chances to sew girly clothes. However, I do have two nieces, so when Megan Nielsen was looking for pattern testers for her new girls collection, I jumped at the chance.

These are the Mini Tania Culottes - little shorts that look like skirts. Girly and practical, the perfect combination.

The Mini Tania pattern comes in three lengths, short, above the knee and below the knee. I made the shortest length and I think it's just right, cute without being too short.

I have made Megan Nielsen patterns before for myself and have always been impressed. The instructions are very clear and the patterns are well drafted and carefully thought out. The children's patterns are made to the same high standard. These culottes were super easy to make and the instructions gave enough information for a beginner to achieve a professional result.

I chose the sizes based on the girls' measurements and they were spot on for their ages. The fit is perfect.

I made both these pairs from white cotton calico. The smallest pair was embellished with circles of calico that I had sprayed with Tumble Dye, cut out then sewn on to the culottes. The Tumble Dyes were bought from Dharma Trading.

The blue pair were shibori dyed in navy blue dye that had been used a few times for other things, so it gave a pale denim colour. The circles were produced by stitching, a method I found in my book 'The Modern Natural Dyer' by Kristine Vejar. I love this book as a very practical introduction to natural dyeing.

The front and back of the garment was pinned together and stitched as one piece to save on sewing. I drew circles with disappearing ink and pinned the two layers together.

I then stitched around each circle, with the stitches extending about 1cm inside the circle. Once complete, the thread was pulled tight and knotted ready for dyeing.

I was really pleased with the effect this produced.

The girls loved their culottes and have worn them a lot since they were made a couple of months ago.

 They also enjoyed the photoshoot!

Such little cuties.

I've got lots more girly sewing planned for Christmas prezzies. Hello Mini Briar tee and Mini Virginia leggings!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Melbourne Cup 2015 - Savage Coco Amare Dress

Ah, the Melbourne, food and champers. Horses? Oh yes, there may have been horses. Actually I wish there hadn't, I disagree with horse racing. However, I do love a fancy lunch, so couldn't refuse when invited by a lovely friend to a Cup lunch at a local private school. What a day! Beautiful food, great company, a fashion parade, prizes. I loved every minute.

But back to the fashion, since that's what I really want to talk about. This is the Amare dress by Savage Coco Patterns, the designer of the hugely popular Presto Popover Top.

The thing is though, this is not actually a new dress, it's a refashioned version of the Amare I made some time back. The original dress was supposed to be the length of this remodeled dress, but in a fit of poor decision-making I chopped the hem and made it knee length. Although I loved the dress, the length and proportions were wrong, so I never wore it. When pondering my wardrobe for Cup day contenders, I pulled it out and decided to lengthen it.

I had the fabric to add to the bottom of the dress, but I didn't want to attach it with a normal seam as it would have looked like the afterthought that it was. I cast my mind back to some sewing I did in the eighties (!) where I used store-bought faggoting to lengthen a dress. I knew I would never be able to buy faggotting in a matching colour, so did a quick search and found a tutorial for hand-sewn faggoting. Basically, the raw edges are overlocked and turned under. They are then basted to paper to hold the opening in place for the hand-stitching (I used extra, extra long stitches on my machine for the basting). 

Once the hand sewing is done, the basting is unpicked and the paper removed. You can see where I unpicked the basted paper and the original hem below, but only on very close inspection!

I think the dress looks way better with the length increased to what was intended in the original design. I'm also super-pleased with the faggoting. It adds a little something to the plain linen and was pretty easy to do. As an added bonus, Nicki informed me on Instagram that faggoting is totally up to the minute and that Zac Posen used it in his latest collection. When I saw that longer hemlines were also in at the Melbourne Cup this year, I knew that finally my fashion planets had aligned and I was on-trend for one happy day!

I was planning to make a hat to go with my outfit, but ran out of time. Instead, I whipped up this flower from leftover linen. It was made by tearing long strips of linen, approximately 5cm wide, gathering them along one edge and rolling the strip into a flower shape. The underside was secured with hand stitches and I sewed it on to a clip to put in my hair. Done in under 30 minutes.

I had a fabulous time at the Cup lunch and felt like a million dollars in this dress, even if I do say so myself! It felt comfortable and ladylike and not too try-hard. I am already planning another version of this dress in a knit fabric, now I know it can be made from knits and wovens. Giddy up!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

One Year One Outfit - THE BIG REVEAL!

OK, here it is. The outfit I've been working on all year that is 100% sourced from my local corner of Western Australia.

Also known as 'Pocahontas goes on a winter holiday'.

The only part that is not locally sourced is the boots and the, er, underwear.

This challenge was dreamt up by the quirky and creative Nicki. We had one year to create an outfit that had been 100% sourced from our local area. People from around the world have taken part including a small and enthusiastic group from Perth, Western Australia (WA), consisting of me, Carolyn, Sue and Nicki. I have to say, I could not have completed this project without the help and support of these lovely ladies. Together we have investigated local sources of fibres and textiles, experimented and learned new techniques, played with natural dyes, hand stretched silk cocoons and endlessly discussed our outfits over cups of tea and coffee. It has been stimulating, cathartic, exhausting at times (try rubbing and rolling huge pieces of felt by hand!) and always incredibly good fun.

At the beginning of the challenge we made a list of the fibres, textiles and other things, like zips, buttons etc. available in south west WA. Here is the list:

1. Wool

We did discuss harvesting roadkill, but abandoned the idea fairly quickly. We were going to have to get creative with Eucalyptus leaves or resort to using wool from sheep or alpacas. Fortunately wool is pretty fantastic and can be used in many ways. I used knitting and felting for the majority of my outfit and incorporated the natural colours of the wool into the design.

Let's start with the cardigan.

I began with a Nikki Gabriel pattern for a jumper made of knitted triangles that were sewn together. I am not a knitter, so thought triangles would be do-able. I used three colours of wool from Corriedale sheep. I knitted a few triangles and was pleased. I knitted some more and was bored. I forced myself to knit even more. I knitted throughout a tropical Singapore holiday, on the plane, in the hotel, even at Universal Studios. By this point I was about halfway through the triangles and decided that if I had to knit another one I would go stark raving mad. Then I suddenly had the brainwave to fill in the gaps with felted triangles. Felting! So much quicker than knitting...until you decide to blanket stitch all the edges before sewing the triangles together. At least it was a change from the interminable knitting. I gradually pieced the triangles together in a random mixture of colour, knitted and felted and it evolved into this cardigan. 

I finished the edges with a felted strip of mid-brown wool and black splotches of Truffle (dog) fur. 

The cardi is rustic to say the least. I think it is a bit much worn with the rest of the outfit, but I do quite like it and it might look ok with jeans or something else less, well, woolen. The different textures are kind of cool and some of the felt looks almost like leather.

So, what else do we have. Oh, more felt! OK, I was perhaps not as creative as I could have been with my treatment of the wool. It's all knitted, felted or stitched. The other parts of the outfit consist of a felted top, skirt and hat.

I've mentioned before about the ombre felted skirt. Sue was a huge help with the felting and, after the first session, she discovered that her car polisher sped up the soapy water rubbing process no end. I used Sue's polisher to felt my skirt into a tube shape.

Truffle inspected the dog fur splotches in the skirt and gave them a woof of approval.

Sue also helped me knit a waistband for the skirt on her knitting machine. I say 'helped' when what I really mean is 'did it for me while I drank tea'. Sue is a legend!

The top is a piece of white felt that I cut to shape using a pattern and I now can't remember which one. I didn't have quite enough for the sides, so I sewed on some felted circles that I had originally intended as embellishment. 

The neckline and armholes are blanket stitched for stability. The darts and shoulder seams are dry felted together with a felting needle.

I'm quite pleased with the top and skirt. I'm not sure if I'll actually wear them, but they do feel light and cosy.

The final part of the outfit is the accessories. I made the hat using the Madeline hat pattern. It is sewn together with wool using the Alabama Chanin hand sewing technique.

I finished it off with two little felt flowers.

But wait, the necklace is not wool! It is made from Neptune Balls, which are balls of WA seaweed, Posidonia oceanica, that I collected from a beach south of Perth and strung together with wool.

I also made a little felt dog for Truff to thank him for donating his fur to the project.

So there we are. One Year One Outfit. Locally sourced and the height of fashion.

OK, the latter claim is pushing it, but I am still very proud of my outfit. After all, it's not just an outfit, it's the culmination of a whole process of researching, gathering materials, experimenting, learning and creating. It's also a reminder to look at what is on your doorstep, unleash its potential and consider the environment and the mass production factories in the process.

I loved this year. Thank you to my OYOO friends for all the fun, help and inspiration, to the sheep and the wool spinners and to Truff and my lovely family for their support and fur donations.

Gosh, I look hilarious!

To see the other stunning outfits of our merry Perth band, have a look here for Carolyn's and here for Sue's. You won't regret it. Nicki's is coming soon, so keep checking her blog.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Indigo dyed twisted dress (Burdastyle 06/2014#102)

I loved the Japanese-influenced patterns from the June 2014 issue of Burdastyle and have finally got round to making something from the collection. This is the 'twisted cap-sleeve dress', so called because the side seams and sleeves are asymmetrical, causing both to twist. As the wearer puts on the dress, the lower half needs to be twisted, moving the side seams to the sides and producing subtle wrinkles across the torso.

Burdastyle 06/2014#102 - I wish I looked like this in my dress!
In order for the dress to stay in its twisted state, it is quite tight. This is all very well on the beanpole model, but when I look in the mirror all I see is tummy and VPL. As much as I admire the twisty design, I think I may need to perform some surgery on this dress to make it looser and more flattering on me.

Truffle is unimpressed.
The dress is made from medium-weight, stable, knit fabric found at Remida. It was originally an oatmeal marle colour, which I decided to dye in an attempt to recreate the subtle striped look of the Burdastyle dress.

Blurry back view
I used natural plant indigo dye from a kit I bought online from Dharma Trading. This contains everything you need for small-scale indigo dyeing. I used half the kit, which was plenty for some experimenting.
Indigo kit from Dharma Trading

Here is the dress on the mannequin before dyeing.

I folded some of the front of the dress into fairly even pleats and hand stitched them loosely in place so the dye would penetrate most of the fabric and produce subtle stripes.

Then into the dye it went. Elbow-length gloves for me!

Here's how the pattern looked when it came out of the dye.

When it dried it was lighter and the neckline had some dark splotches, but that's all part of the unpredictability and fun of natural dyeing.

All in all, I'm really happy with this project. Although the dress is too tight on me, I loved playing with the dye and the indigo colour is beautiful. I'm pleased with the stripy effect and I definitely think the dress is worth adjusting for a more flattering fit.


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