Monday, 22 May 2017

Sophie Swimsuit with custom-printed fabric

I am very excited to show you the second garment I have made using fabric printed with one of my Mum's own paintings. You may have seen the dress I made a few weeks ago with a Eucalyptus design.

Painting by Chris Oxberry

This painting depicts masses of everlastings (flowers) on a red-earthed, Australian outback landscape. I chose the lower part of the painting for the design with just a bit of the tree at the top.

I had the fabric printed by Contrado UK. This is the 'Slinky lycra matt 210gsm' and I absolutely recommend it for a swimsuit. The fabric is beautiful quality, soft but firm with good stretch recovery. The printing turned out really well on this fabric too as the colours are accurate and very vibrant. I have spoken about ordering from Contrado in this blog post.

I ordered a piece of fabric 100cm wide by 60cm long and just squeezed this swimsuit out (size 8 body, size 5 cup) with only tiny scraps left over - perfect! I had worked out my exact fabric requirements before ordering so I didn't have any waste. I cut the pieces from a single layer of fabric, which meant more cutting, but much less wastage, so totally worth it when working with special fabric.

The pattern is the Sophie Swimsuit by Closet Case Patterns. I have made this before and loved it, so the choice was easy. This time I added an inch to the torso length as my last one was just a bit short in the body causing a rather unfortunate chesty wardrobe malfunction on a very crowded beach! I think now this one might be a tad too long as there is some wrinkling at the back, but it's definitely to be better safe than sorry. The swimsuit is lined with orange lycra from my ridiculously extensive lycra stash. Other than that, everything was the same as for my previous Sophie Swimsuit.

This project took a lot of plotting and planning with my Mum, detailed measuring of fabric requirements, designing and ordering from the Contrado website, super careful cutting and slow sewing. 

I loved every minute!

I'm thrilled with my one-off swimsuit and can't wait until it's warm enough to actually swim in it. Maybe I need to plan a tropical holiday...

Monday, 8 May 2017

StyleArc Autumn Dress

I was drawn to the StyleArc Autumn Dress pattern as soon as I saw it and grabbed it in a recent Etsy sale. I love the deep overlap at the neckline that extends into a front pleat, the loose fit and the curved hem. The back pleat is also an interesting feature - more on that later. 

Since we are now in the season of autumn, I chose a lightweight corduroy for this dress. The fabric came from Remida as an unwanted factory offcut so I'm doing my bit for sustainability! I wasn't sure about the colour at first, but it's grown on me and now I rather love it.

This dress is not difficult to sew and the front came together quickly. That neckline and collar are so lovely.

The back, however, caused me a few problems. Despite following the diagram in the instructions, I just could not get it folded correctly. I tried to match the folded back with the width of the yoke, but still could not work it out. I tried for over an hour, studying the website photo and drawing diagrams, before giving up and going to bed. I pondered it overnight and went straight to it again in the morning. After almost another hour, I finally got it. I can't remember the last time I got so confused over a simple bit of folding!

I drew a diagram each time I thought I'd got it right. The one at the top is the correct one. It's a bit messy but may help someone. It's also quite different from the diagram in the instructions, which is more like my discarded diagrams.

From then on, it was smooth sailing again and I'm so happy with the way the dress turned out. As always, StyleArc's drafting and fit is spot on and this is a gorgeous pattern.


Monday, 1 May 2017

A foray into fabric design

The Divine Dinner Dress by Savage Coco

I am VERY excited about this project! I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here, but my Mum is an artist. She paints vibrant pictures of Australian landscapes and native flowers as well as memories from her overseas travels. You can see some of her work here

It occurred to me that some of her designs would look gorgeous as fabric and I began to ponder how to go about it. I talked to Mum one evening a couple of months ago and, as soon as I suggested it, Mum was off and racing with ideas! 

I was keen to use her Australian paintings as they are beautiful and unique. Mum said to leave it with her to think over and, before I knew it, she'd been through my blog, found her favourite things and chosen paintings that would make suitable fabric for each garment! 

Meanwhile, I'd been looking at getting the fabric printed. I'd seen that Velosewer had used the UK company Contrado to have fabric printed with a photo for swimwear. Rather fancying some custom printed swimwear myself (more about that in a future post), I decided to give them a try. I was not disappointed!

The Contrado website allows you to upload photos, tweak the design and size, select from a huge number of fabrics (105 from memory) and send the design for printing.

Contrado Swatch Pack

I wanted to be sure the fabric was exactly what I wanted so I sent away for a sample pack before I made my decision. The swatches were sent from England to Australia in less than a week and I found it a huge help to feel the fabrics. I loved some of the sporty, technical fabrics, but decided to see how I went with natural fibres to begin with. After narrowing down my fabric selection, I decided to make three garments each with a different print and fabric. This dress was made from 100% cotton Pima lawn 75gsm.

You need to set up an account with Contrado to get started, then select 'fabric printing' and choose your fabric type. From there you can start your design by uploading images.

Once the image is uploaded you can play around with it using different tools. I chose to print this design as a mirror image. This worked really well for the dress as it meant the front and back of the dress were pattern matched at the sides.

I then carefully measured my dress pattern pieces to work out exactly the amount of fabric I needed. Contrado enables exact measurements to be printed. This is useful to keep costs down and reduce waste. I prewashed my fabrics and measured them before and after. This piece stayed the same width, but lost 2cm in length after washing. 

The Pima Lawn fabric was perfect for this dress. It's light, but not transparent, and was lovely to sew. The printing turned out beautifully and has not faded with washing. The Contrado service was easy and fast and I was very happy with everything.

So, the dress! Mum chose this pattern as she thought using contrasting fabric at the neckline and hem would 'frame' the printed fabric. It's the Divine Dinner Dress by Savage Coco. I have made this dress before and it remains one of my favourites. Savage Coco now has a new website called Naughty Bobbin Patterns, but this pattern and excellent tutorial are still available on the old site. I shortened the dress, and took in the sides. It's perfect for showcasing a special fabric.

You can see here how mirroring the design gave a nice print match (and a totally different look) on each side.

Mum's original painting depicted leaves and flowers of Eucalyptus miniata. I love the colours and smell of Eucalypts and the way this print turned out is unmistakably Australian. It took me ages to decide on the contrasting colour, but I think the soft green goes well with the print.

I am over the moon with this dress and I will wear it with a very special pride knowing that it was the result of an exciting collaboration with my beautiful and talented Mum. Stay tuned for the other two designs we worked on together.

 Love you Mum xx

NOTE: if anyone is interested in using these designs for fabric printing (or other things), please let me know and we can discuss it further!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Acton Dress - In the Folds

The Acton Dress by In the Folds has an interesting design that appealed to me straight away. There are two versions, but the bodice and skirt can be interchanged to make four different possibilities. I initially decided to make View B as I liked the unique wrap-effect skirt that can be tied at the front or back. 

The Acton Dress - In the Folds
I chose this bold striped cotton that I bought at a recent Morrison sale. I did a full bust adjustment (FBA) on the bodice according to this helpful tutorial on the In the Folds blog. 

For the bodice I decided to place the side panel stripes vertically to avoid very obvious misaligned stripes from the front to the side. Initially I placed black stripes next to the front panel, but decided it looked weird, so recut the pieces to place white stripes next to the front panel. This also looked odd, so I took it apart and added black piping at the seamlines. At this point I began to regret the use of such bold stripes on a garment with many pieces!

When I was finally satisfied with the bodice I began the skirt. I then had another crisis when I tried on the unhemmed dress. I tied the skirt to the front and I tied it to the back. I did it again. Many times! I just wasn't sure that I liked it. The stripes on the fabric meant that there were too many lines for the lovely style lines of the dress to shine through. I decided to ask the wise sewing community on Instagram and posted the following picture:

meggipegI am in the middle of a sewing dilemma! I'm making the Acton dress, view B with the skirt side flaps, but I'm halfway through (no hem, no lining) and having a crisis about the flaps. I think the flaps tied in front might be too busy with the stripes. I like the look of the flaps tied at the back, but only from the front! Should I lose the flaps altogether? Help! 

The overwhelming response was to tie the flaps at the back or remove them altogether, with one (ex) friend suggesting that it looked like a boat cushion refashion!! I decided to soldier on and finish the dress, then make my decision. The main reason for dilly dallying was that cutting off the flaps would have meant mismatching stripes at the new side seams and I couldn't bear that.

Well you've no doubt noticed by now that the skirt does not have side flaps or ties. After many hours spent in front of the mirror, it suddenly dawned on me that if I cut off the flaps and moved the side seam very slightly around, the stripes might actually match. Hurrah! This was fiddly, but I had already embraced the fiddle that was this dress in these stripes, so I pushed on. It worked!

I like it much better now!

The racer back is cool and flattering, although I need to lower those bra straps a bit!

The side stripes match almost perfectly and I even added pockets. Well why not? Of course I did the pockets twice as the first time the stripes didn't match the skirt stripes and looked terrible!

But I got there in the end and now have a bold and (hopefully) beautiful dress to wear in the last days of summer. I'll just take care not to go on any boats!

I should mention that all these tribulations were the fault of me choosing bold fabric and then being fussy about the outcome. This is a lovely pattern and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Minttu Swing top - Named SS17 Playground Collection

The Minttu Swing top was the final pattern I tested from the new Named collection. This is a flattering design with a high neckline, cut-away armholes, side panels and a swing shape. It has a one-piece facing for a neat finish at the neckline and armholes.

I used a 100% cotton knit that I had dyed with indigo and that was left over from my Alabama Chanin dress, one of my favourite creations.

This is a quick and easy top to sew and I highly recommend it. It is very easy to wear and the style goes with many different 'bottom-half' garments. In these photos I'm wearing some StyleArc Elle pants. Yesterday I wore it with some loose Hudson Pants modified to be made with a woven fabric and I think it looked even better. You'll have to believe me, I've done my photo session!

I rarely wear anything with cut-away armholes, but actually I think they are more flattering to the arms than a simple sleeveless design. The attention is drawn away from the upper arms somehow. This is a definite win for keeping cool and looking...well, hot! OK, at least a few degrees warmer than usual.

The only issue with appearing to have amazing arms, is that normal bra straps show. I didn't have any racer-style bras, so quickly whizzed up a couple of Noelle bras - the free underwear pattern by Madalynne. I did an FBA on the Noelle pattern as it's really for smaller busted women. I can recommend the bra and knickers.

I am thrilled with this top and with my other Playground Collection items, the Maisa denim jacket and the Ansa dress and top. I think this is my favourite Named collection so far.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

One Year One Outfit 2016

I haven't talked much about the totally local outfit I made during the whole of 2016, but I have been beavering away and it is finally finished!

Now I have to admit here, that 'totally local' is not exactly an accurate description for this outfit. The challenge was to create an outfit that was completely sourced from naturally-occurring materials within a 500km radius of my location. As discussed last year, there are not a lot of dressmaking materials available around Perth, Western Australia except wool. I stuck to the rules last year, but rebelled this year and used a couple of imported products. I decided that having a wearable* almost-totally-local outfit made more sense than a totally local outfit that sat, unworn, in the cupboard. 

*I use the term 'wearable' somewhat loosely here!

This year's outfit includes a dress, a bag and some shoes. The bag and shoes are felted from Merino and Corriedale wool from West Australian sheep and are 100% locally sourced apart from the soles of the shoes, which I made from jute string imported from China. 

The dress is nuno felted with silk hankies and wool on silk. I had really wanted to try nuno felting and had intended to use local wool and imported silk and dye it with local plants. However, it turned out that locally sourced and dyed materials were going to make life as a newbie nuno felter too complicated, so I bought everything from Treetops Colour Harmonies. Treetops is the most glorious shop and all their silk and wool is carefully hand dyed in colours inspired by West Australian bushland and beaches. If you're going to deviate from totally local, this is the place to do it!

My supplies were silk hankies, silk georgette fabric and superfine Merino wool tops in the colours 'Chinchilla'. I had never worked with silk hankies before and was quite surprised to find that they were not the nose-blowing variety, but squares of fine silk fibres, each stretched from a single silkworm cocoon. It felt very special to work with these little wonders of nature.

The dress was made during a three day nuno felting workshop with Nancy Ballesteros at the Feltwest studio. The course was absolutely brilliant and I learnt so many new techniques. Nuno felting a fitted garment with silk hankies is a long and involved process. It begins as a pattern that would fit a giant and is worked and washed and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed until finally it fits a real person. Despite having three full days to make this, in the last hour or so I was actually running back and forth from the sink to the table to the rubbing boards in a manner reminiscent of Project Runway or Masterchef!

My design for all three of my items was based on an abstract flower design I saw in the book '500 Felt Objects' by Nathalie Mornu, which was kindly lent to me by Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn. I used the colours of the wool and silk hankies to vary the colours of the flowers and to highlight the edges and centres against the background. The flowers were placed close together at the neckline and bodice, for strength and modesty, and further apart towards the hemline. I am wearing a flesh-coloured slip under the dress.

The front and back of the dress were made separately and fitted during the felting process. Areas of the dress, such as the armholes, were shrunk with further felting so they were fitted and not gaping.

The dress was then sewn together with silk strips to create a decorative seam. The hem was hand rolled and stitched.

The bag is completely felted from local wool in white and brown and incorporates the same abstract flower design as the dress. I made the bag at another fabulous Feltwest course run by Sue Eslick. I attended the course with Sue from Fadanista, who is always great fun and has made a breathtaking totally local dress and accessories that you must see.

The bag was made in the round as one piece with a plastic 'resist' in the middle to stop the front and back felting together. You can see here that I went to considerable effort to dye some of my wool with locally sourced indigo. This is a bit of a sore point as the indigo nearly all washed out during the felting process!

An inordinate amount of rubbing and shaping followed before the bags were sufficiently felted and strong. Here Sue was laughing as my indigo dye ran out all over my shoes. Little did she know that my bag was watching her every move!

Encouraged by my newfound resist felting expertise (!), I attempted the shoes on my own! To make the template, I drew around my foot and measured the width at the widest point. This measurement, 9.6cm, was divided by three giving 3.2cm. I then added 3.2cm all around the foot drawing to allow for the wool shrinkage and foot shape. The left and right templates were made from thin packaging foam sheets covered with duct tape.

Rub a dub dub...

Once the felting was done, I cut a foothole in the top. I thought I'd made it in the right place, but I ended up having to patch the heel as it was too low.

The sole was made with a plaited strip of jute string that I placed on a template of my foot, sewed together and stitched to the shoe with local wool.

So there we are!

I have an outfit that is only partly local. However, every inch of it was planned and designed and made lovingly agonisingly by hand in a process that was exhilarating and difficult and immensely satisfying.

So, the big question now is will I wear it? Well, I can happily report that I have already done so! I wore the dress to a wonderful get together of the Perth Sewcialists late last year. The Sewcialists, as always, were very kind and complimentary of the dress and much patting of the fabric took place. I call that a win for One Year One Outfit!

Huge thanks must go to Nicki of This is Moonlight for conceiving this idea of nature and sustainability and facilitating the meeting of wonderful, like-minded people. She will be doing a round up of the participants soon and has made an exquisite hand woven coatigan. Thank you also to Carolyn, for the fun get togethers, for encouraging me to keep creating my outfit and for her (very kind) enthusiasm about my shoes! Her outfit is the most beautiful knitted dress and hat, dyed with local plants. You must see it. Thank you also to Sue for the laughs, the inspiration and being my partner in crime at the workshops. If you didn't click on her gorgeous doily dress earlier in the post, do it now. My outfit from last year can be found here.


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