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.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Burdastyle 08/2014 #131

The August 2014 issue of Burdastyle has some lovely patterns. This one caught my eye straight away. I like that it looks like quite a smart outfit, but is really a breezy, comfortable dress.

Burdastyle 08/2014#131

I made the whole dress from linen. The top is white linen bought in Bali and the skirt is thicker, blue linen from Spotlight, left over from my Wyome jeans. The linen is looking rather crumpled in these pictures but, not being much of an ironer, I'm used to the crumpled look. I did actually iron this dress before wearing it, but kids and hospital visits* and lunch and beach happened and this is the result.

*My lovely Dad has had major surgery, but is doing very well.

The lines of the dress are very appealing. The diagonal seams of the wrap front continue into the skirt and incorporate pockets. The cross-over part of the bodice is stitched down most the the way as it was gaping.

The skirt back has vertical seams which continue down from the darts in the bodice. The bodice has side seams, but the skirt does not. 

The sizing for this pattern is 'petite', designed for a height of 160cm. Having never used this sizing for Burdastyle patterns before, I chose a size 20 based on my measurements.

I am around 175cm tall, so added some length to the bodice and skirt pieces. The first time I wore this dress, I decided the proportions were wrong, so whipped it off, removed the skirt and raised it to the level originally intended by the pattern. I also took the dress in at the sides. Conclusion: make one size smaller than my measurements in regular and petite Burdastyle patterns.

 You may have spotted my hat in these photos. It is a recent attempt at a second fabulous hat (aka Vogue 7600). I will have to talk more about this in a separate post as it too is about to be ripped apart and remade.

As I made it, I had a fit of misled inspiration and halved the height of the crown. The hat now perches unsteadily on the very top of my head and flies off at the merest hint of a breeze. 

However, I am rather chuffed with the frayed edge detail on the hat, so will make a new crown and try to stick to the pattern next time.

 As for the dress, it's very me. I love it and will wear it a lot this summer.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Triple denim and a Bee - Vogue 1247 skirt and Bellini blouse


Lots to talk about today and lots of pictures. It all started with the Surprise Sewing Bee contest on Pattern Review. This is a fun competition based on the 'Great British Sewing Bee' series shown on the BBC. Each week, for four weeks, the Pattern Review website will announce the garment to be made for that week. The entries will be judged and eliminated from the competition, presumably if they don't follow the specifications of the particular garment.

For week 1 of the competition, contestants were required to make an A-line skirt with a zip, lining, button or hook closure, waistband and hem.

I decided to go with Vogue 1247. I used this cotton fabric, made of pieced strips with lace detail, that I bought in Bali years ago. I decided not to include the skirt pockets to keep the stripes neat and to make sure I was adhering to the competition rules.

I was really careful making this to keep everything neat. I cut the back first, then lined up the front to match the stripes. I pinned the upper and lower pattern pieces together and cut as one piece (below).

I even went to the bother of binding all the raw inside edges!

I lined it too!

Here are the pictures of the finished skirt:

I matched all the stripes as best I could, but the way the fabric was made meant that it wasn't possible to get this completely neat. The lace had been sewn on a bit wonky by the manufacturer (I unpicked and redid part of it) and the check pattern was not even. Still, I am really pleased with the way it turned out. 

Sheer, cotton lining with folded darts.

Now it just so happened that I had found this washed out chambray, denimy fabric at Remida recently that just so happened to match the skirt fabric rather well! I immediately thought of the Bellini blouse pattern by Capital Chic that I won in the Refashion Contest by Sew Amy Sew (thank you Amy and Sally). I decided that my stripy skirt would not be complete without the Bellini. In fact, I became obsessed with the thought and cancelled all engagements (except my Melbourne Cup lunch) so I could make both this week.

The Bellini has two collar options. I went with the scalloped one to fancy up my plain fabric.

The Bellini was a joy to make. I followed Sally's sewalong, which I expected to be just for beginners, and was quite amazed at how helpful it was. I even watched the pressing videos with rapt attention! My blouse turned out so neat and tidy with French seams and everything.

It's a simple pattern, but cleverly thought out so it looks far more complicated than it really is. The pattern pieces go together like a dream. I am really pleased with this blouse and highly recommend the pattern.

To top it off, I wore denim shoes for the photos.

If double denim is a fashion faux pas, I don't know what this is!

I rather like it. It makes me feel like a cowgirl.

 Oh yeah, a cowgirl....

 YEE HA!!!

Friday, 24 October 2014

StyleArc Lola pants and Patrones top (329 #9)

Some time ago I went to a fabric sale. It was a moving sale at the crazy workshop of an eveningwear designer. I've mentioned this sale before, but I haven't shown you any of the silk I bought - until now!

I'm not usually one to spend heaps on fabric. When I began sewing a lot for myself I was a uni student and did it to save money. Then I never really got past that 'sewing to save' mentality. However, I have been conditioning and training myself at various textile establishments over the last few years and can happily say that the money I spend on fabric and associated accoutrements is increasing in an exponential fashion! 

But I still can't resist a sale. And I don't spend that much on fabric reeeeeally (just in case Mr M is reading).

So anyway, this sale had lots of silk and, although I resisted the more expensive rolls of fabric in favour of remnants, I bought a nice selection. The added bonus was that it was cheap enough that I didn't feel terrified to use it.

First I made these StyleArc Lola pants. I used navy silk charmeuse with the non-shiny side as the right side. I didn't have quite enough to fit the pattern pieces on properly, so I added a strip down the sides, shiny side out. I had to piece the strip but it's not terribly noticeable.

I used the shiny side for the waistband too. I left off the elastic at the hem.

I love these pants. The fit is great, I think they are on trend with the stripe, they are super-comfy and the silk is gorgeous.

My sister disagrees, but I'm ignoring her. Here's me practicing the look I will give her when I show her the whole outfit!

So then, getting a bit carried away and running the risk of producing pyjamas, I made a silk charmeuse blouse and wore it with the silk pants! Don't mess with me girlfriend.

The blouse is pattern 9 from Patrones magazine No. 329, which was a lovely gift a while back from Katherine of Bloom's Endless Summer. I must ask her how her move is going.

Patrones 329, pattern 9.
Before I began sewing, I helpfully spent some time typing the instructions into Google translate. This was the result:

I was at a bit of a loss as to where to begin, but I noticed the 'drinks between aplomas' part near the end so did quite a bit of that first, ignoring the aplomas as they didn't seem important. After that, the bit about 'two necks in front and one behind' started to make more sense and I went from there.  

The neckline was the trickiest part and mine isn't perfect. I blame the drinks and aplomas. Luckily the slight asymmetry and odd hand stitch are not noticeable when worn, partly due to the gorgeous idea of the decorative bead, which also helps to hold the neckline in place. I need to tighten the thread holding the bead so it can't be seen. I did not add elastic to the hem, preferring to leave it loose.

So there we are, I'm dressed head to toe in silk charmeuse and I'm loving it! I wore this out last night to the opening of an art awards and exhibition where my Mum had a painting. I was elegance itself!


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