Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A pinch and a punch - modified Jalie jeans and Burdastyle top (07/2013 #103)

One of my favourite Aussie designers is Sass and Bide (no special links, I just like them). Now and then I will waft around their airy shop, touching and examining and committing to memory my favourite designs, not to mention feeling horrified at the price tags! A couple of years ago I saw some skinny jeans called 'The Pinch'. All S&B clothes have arty farty names. I liked the interesting lines created by the white stripes. Anyway, when I saw that Pattern Review were holding a Bargainista Fashionista contest involving the creation of a garment inspired by RTW (ready to wear), I decided to have a go at making a Pinch, or perhaps a pair of Pinches, of my very own.

Picture saved from Sass and Bide website. No longer available.

Were $190 on Polyvore
I didn't want these super skinny, so I went back to an old favourite pattern, Jalie 2908. I used a modified version of the jeans which I have made before (changes explained here) and which I wear often.

I used a stretch sateen for the jeans and shop-bought bias binding for the stripes. The total cost was $17, so a saving of $173 on the original!

Just imagine the photobombing dog is a luxurious rug!
I had to think about the placement of the stripes and change the order of construction a bit so they went where they were supposed to go, under the back pockets and, the trickiest bit, across the side seams. I also redid the front stripe as I didn't like the placement when I first tried the jeans on. It was difficult to get the stripes in the same place on each leg, but I got pretty close in the end. 

The shiny fabric highlights all the wrinkles, but I quite like the effect actually.

Still imagining that rug?

I'm pretty happy with the fit, although I think my Jamie jeans provide a smoother and better fit overall, for me anyway. I'm just hoping that those stripes lengthen the legs rather than widening the hips!

Once the jeans were done, I needed to find something to wear with them. What goes with gold? Why more gold of course! Enter the twisted tank from Burdastyle 07/2013 (#103). This pattern caught my eye when I first received the magazine, but it's taken me over a year to make it.

Burdastyle Twisted Tank
Part of the dilemma involved the fabric choice. The top required two layers of light fabric. I eventually settled on the gold with a nudy brown colour for the under layer, which peeks out at the shoulders, along with my bra straps. Both fabrics are polyester chiffon.

I had read on other reviews of this pattern that the construction could be a bit tricky. I just followed the instructions and didn't have any problems. The only issue I had was that my fabrics are so delicate. This top is only for gentle outings!

I am naming this 'The Punch' to remind me not to punch anyone while wearing it and because it goes well with 'The Pinch'.

A pinch and a punch for the first month of the year. Or something.

I am very happy with both items, apart from the top being a bit delicate. I definitely feel more of a fashionista than a bargainista in this outfit. I just hope I'm getting away with it!


Friday, 16 January 2015

StyleArc Amber blouse and Colette Iris shorts

I do like raglan sleeve tops, so was keen to try the Amber blouse pattern bought recently from StyleArc. This top has all sorts of possibilities for colour blocking which usually has me pulling fabrics from nooks and crannies all aver my sewing room and ending up drowning in the pile with no idea what combination to use.

StyleArc Amber Blouse

This time I emerged from the fabric pile clutching this Japanese cotton print (a $10 remnant from Fabulous Fabrics) along with some brown knit fabric scraps that were quite a good match. The 80cm remnant piece was easily enough for the main fabric of the top. I decided to use white for the piping detail around the neckline and down the front panel. Rather than using real piping, I used 3cm wide strips of knit fabric folded in half with the raw edges matching the raw edge of the pattern piece. Once the 1cm wide seam allowance is folded under, 5mm of  faux piping is visible. This method is super simple and reduces the bulk that normal piping would produce.

I am kicking myself for not grading the seam allowances at the edges of the front and neckline panels. They are too thick making them very obvious. Bummer. I thought of it by the time I sewed the back neckline panel, which is covered by my hair. So annoyed!

The front and neckline panels are interfaced and sewn on top of the main front pattern piece, so it would be easy to omit them and make a plain top for a change. When the panels are included, the instructions have you sew the neckline edge with front and neckline piece right sides together to give a nice, clean finish to the neckline. The issue then is finishing the neckline edge of the sleeves. The pattern includes a little bias piece to do this, but I wasn't completely happy with the result. I wonder if a neater finish would be achieved using bias binding all the way around the neckline. Not sure. 

I am very happy with this top and will certainly be making more if I can only come up with another pleasing fabric combination.

Since the colours in the top are not commonly found in my wardrobe, I realised that some new shorts would be required. I fancied white, but couldn't find exactly what I wanted in my stash. Having two boys home on school holidays has vastly restricted my access to fabric shops, much as I've tried to convince them of the virtues of such establishments. So, I pulled out a scrap of linen-look fabric from Remida. I only had a long strip so pieced the fabric together to have enough to cut the pattern pieces. I quite like the resulting seamlines across the back.

I've made the Iris shorts a couple of times before so they went together quickly. The fabric was very unstable and kept pulling completely out of shape, but I got there in the end.

 The grey doesn't exactly match the top, but I think it's close enough to look OK. I love both these items. Now I just have to clear up that pile of fabric...

Sunday, 11 January 2015

StyleArc Tammy knit dress

I bought a couple of StyleArc patterns in the member sale last month and this pattern came free with my order. It's the Tammy knit dress, a simple pattern with lots of options for different looks.

StyleArc Tammy knit dress combo
I love a simple knit dress and was eager to try this out. Since this was going to be an easy pattern to make, I decided to set myself a challenge. This was not to be an ordinary challenge involving speed or tricky fabrics. This was to force me to overcome a hurdle I have been avoiding for years. This was (the excitement is palpable now) to finish the hem with a coverstitch (and the crowd goes wild). 

I have a Bernina 2500DCET overlocker which converts to a coverstitch machine. An incredible concept that, despite filling me with excitement, I have largely ignored, aside from a couple of fumbled and disastrous hemming attempts when I first bought the machine around five years ago.

At a recent sewing blogger meet-up in Perth, Sue of Fadanista casually mentioned that she has an overlocker/coverstitch machine and happily flits between the two settings. Well, that was too much for me and mastering the coverstitch became my New Year's resolution.

Anyway, back to the dress. It is a very easy pattern with just the front, two back pieces with a centre seam, sleeves and neck binding to sew together. I used a basting stitch to make sure the stripes were matching before finishing the seams with the overlocker.

I used a nice quality, striped, knit remnant from Potters Textiles. The 1m piece only cost $6 and I managed to squeeze the whole dress out of it, although I had to make the sleeves a bit shorter than the pattern intended to fit them on the fabric.

I made a size 10 and changed only the sleeve length and the neckline. I lowered and slightly widened the front neckline using the Briar t-shirt pattern as a guide. I think the fit of this dress is perfect, not too tight or too loose and incredibly easy and comfy to wear. I know I'll be reaching for this all summer.

The back neckline is scooped, which I quite like, and the front is neatly finished with a narrow band. OK, I know, you want to hear about the coverstitching. Well, here it comes...

Oh be still my beating heart! But wait there's more...

While you reCOVER from that excitement, let me fill you in on the details. It turns out that it's not really that hard at all to convert my overlocker to do coverstitch. The secret is to read and follow the instructions. Who would have thought it? Actually I'm generally pretty good at reading instructions so I'm not sure why my previous efforts failed. Anyway, this time I was super thorough and it worked! Next time I might move on to the next chapter and try a two thread coverstitch. Whee hee!

The only problem, aside from the hem stitching being a bit wonky, was that there was some slight puckering. I'm guessing that this must have been because I had the differential feed set at 1.5 instead of zero. I should have checked that before I started.

 I definitely recommend this pattern for a simple and perfect summer dress. I will certainly be making more and look forward to trying the overlay top too. As for coverstitching, well this is just the beginning. A whole new hemming world is opening up to me and I can't wait to explore it!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Named Wenona shirt

I eyed and eyed the Named Wenona shirt and shirt dress before buying the pattern. I don't know why it took me so long, but I think it was Nikki's version that finally made me click that 'buy' button. That and the fact that my sister requested a floaty, white, summer shirt for Christmas.

Of course, I had to test the pattern before making my sister's shirt. And then I had to test it again because I wanted another one! This was my second version. The first was the shirtdress, that I have yet to photograph. For this shirt, I used a very lightweight cotton that I had bought at an eveningwear designer sale. It was beige with silver writing. Once I had finished the shirt, I decided it needed some more oomph, so I dyed it with Royal Blue Rit dye. I had wanted a darker blue but Spotlight had a very sorry selection of dye colours, so royal blue it was.

This is what the shirt looked like before dyeing:

I much prefer the blue and it makes the silver writing pattern stand out more on the fabric.

To add extra bling to my shimmery shirt, I chose sparkly diamante buttons from Textile Traders. 

The shirt was straightforward and enjoyable to make. The only change I made in this version was to cut two back yoke pieces for a double layer. I was concerned that a single layer of this fine fabric would be a bit flimsy across the upper back. The hardest part for me was attaching the collar stand so it looked neat. I might read up on some tutorials for tricks on getting this perfect.

I opted not to add the front pleats to keep this shirt light and cool. However, I am itching to make another version with pleats and colour blocking.

I love the back collar button detail.

The long strip that runs from the neckline, down the sleeve to the cuff makes setting in the sleeves a breeze. I would like to work out a way to add topstitching to both sides of the strip in future versions.

I also like the curved hemline. I will probably mostly wear it casually tucked in though.

Like this (worn with StyleArc Lola pants):

I'm very happy with this pattern and will definitely be making it again. I wish I had taken photos of my sister's white, beachy version as it gives quite a different look. I will see if she can send me some pictures.

I'm off to swimming lessons with my boys this New Year's Eve and I'll be wearing my new bathers that I just finished! Wishing everyone a safe and happy 2015 xx

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

How to make a simple photo backdrop

Vogue 1313

I churn out hand made clothes at a rare old rate, not that you'd know it from my frequency of blog posts. One of the barriers to getting clothes on to the blog has been finding the time and location to take the photos. I love blog photos taken with beautiful scenery in the background, but it's just not always possible and has ended, more than once, with me feeling very embarrassed by the onlookers!

So, I dreamed up a way of making myself a photo backdrop that I could set up easily at home.

And here it is, neatly stored away:

I've mentioned before that I'm a member of Remida, an amazing place in Perth that recycles factory offcuts and the like. It was there that I headed to search for supplies. 

I collected a long (approx 2m), sturdy cardboard tube (try fabric stores for similar) and a large piece of white vinyl (approx 2 x 4m). The vinyl is great for this as it is fairly lightweight, holds its shape and doesn't tend to ripple. However, a large bed sheet or tablecloth may also work. 

The shorter edge of the vinyl was taped to the tube with strong packing tape. I then cut some rope to about 2.5 times the length of the tube, doubled it over and tied large bulldog clips to each end. The bulldog clips attach to each end of the tube for hanging and make it easy to switch the white vinyl for another colour backdrop if you so desire. If you don't have clips, just thread the rope through the tube and tie it (note that the rope will get in the way when rolling up the backdrop for storage with this method).

I searched around my house for somewhere to hang my new contraption and eventually settled on the balcony overhanging my back courtyard. There's enough room there to set everything up and there is lots of natural light. I installed two of these high-tech hooks on a fabric tie chopped off some garment or other. They now hang attractively from my balcony ready for the next photoshoot.

 This backdrop can be set up in about a minute. I stand my tripod and camera facing it and click away. Sometimes I even stand a mirror against the tripod so I can see if my dress (and myself) are looking their best for the pictures!

Vogue 1316

Once taken, the pictures can be quickly manipulated so they are ready for the blog. I use iphoto to crop them, quickly retouch any creases in the vinyl (eg. top, right of 'before' photo above). The above photo was taken on an overcast day so I clicked 'enhance' to brighten it up. Done!

Named Wyome jeans

The vinyl is also great as a background for inanimate objects, such as these jeans...

...and also works well for photos of pets and children. Awwww Truffle! Here he was putting his paw up for a treat. I just removed the hand and treat from the photo using Photoshop.

So, although I will still take photos in my natural habitat when I am able, this is a fantastically easy way of quickly producing some fairly professional-looking photos.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Belatedly blog hopping

Unblogged: fleece StyleArc Ziggi jacket

 Just when you thought you'd seen the last of the blog hops, here's another one! I was nominated by Andrea of Fabric Epiphanies, Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn and Andrea of Obsessive Creativeness. Thank you all and sorry for taking so long to write this.

Unblogged: finished Little French Jacket

Why do you write?
When I was at high school I hated to write. Actually, I pretty much hated anything to do with school and didn't go very often! Then, after failing my final year, learning some life lessons and repeating my final year, I found myself studying Biology at uni and barely able to write a lab report. Fortunately for me, my Mum has incredible English skills and she spent many long hours imparting her knowledge to me. I am eternally grateful for this. A new world of creativity, expression and grammar nazism opened up to me and I loved it all. As I moved on to do my PhD. I wrote as I went along and, to the amazement of my supervisor, submitted my thesis three weeks after finishing my experimental work. What a relief that was after five, long years! By this stage I had honed my scientific writing skills to a fine art. My writing was specific, concise and exact. Eventually I left the lab altogether and worked as a Medical Writer for a company that ran clinical trials. 

Then came the blog. A sewing blog written in a highly scientific style just doesn't work. I wanted it to be readable and fun. It was snotty and boring. I tried to inject my sense of humour. It fell flat. I struggled for a long time to wrestle that scientific perfectionism out of the blog and I think I've managed it sometimes! Occasionally I think I've written things that are even a bit witty or funny and even used superfluous words I didn't really need!

So the short answer is that I write because I love it. Fiddling with sentences to get them just right is as much fun in blogging as in science, just completely different.

The creative process!

Why is your blog different to others in the same genre?
I don't think it is much different. There are an awful lot of sewing blogs written by scientists (I must research that sometime...). I make things I want to wear, try to take good photos and then write something interesting or useful or humorous to go along with the pictures. Pretty standard really.

Inspiring the next generation

What are you working on right now?
As always, I'm working on trying to keep up with all the fantastic sewing blogs on my list, attempting to memorise (and prioritise) all the patterns in my Burdastyle and Patrones magazine collection and ogling the entries in the PR Sewing Bee competition and wishing I was still part of it. I've just made myself a leather bag and have started on my Christmas sewing, so that's a secret.

'Get your bum out of the blog photos!'

What is your writing process?
My writing process starts with a series of unblogged projects and much procrastination. Much as I love writing, I would still rather sew. Getting the photos taken is a big hurdle, recently made easier with my home made studio background that I will blog about soon. Then I just sit and bang out a blog post, usually in one sitting, click 'publish' and rush off to catch up on making dinner or whatever has been neglected while I sat at the computer! I have found blogging easier over time and I rarely go back and change anything these days, where at first I was constantly editing what I had written. I try to blog when I'm in a good mood so I can keep the content upbeat. Sometimes I think about a blog post before I write it and try to come up with a good pun I can use, but mostly I just try to be me and my writing reflects my serious or silly state of mind at the time.


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