Monday, October 20, 2014

Viva Las Vegas top - Simplicity 3790


Years ago, I spent a few memorable days in Las Vegas with the girls. Of course, outlet mall shopping was on the agenda, but unuse to the pace and heat, I started to wilt after a couple of hours. The solution was to change out of jeans into a newly purchased bright and breezy sundress. However, a new problem soon developed - as the fabric was super stretchy, the shoestring straps kept on stretching to the point of indecency! By the end of the day the straps were a tangled mess of knots tied in an effort to prevent a complete wardrobe malfunction.
Back in New Zealand, the straps unpicked from the dress, a piece of blue lycra from the scrap bag found to make new ones, it was all tied together ........ and became a UFO for several years.


Enter my wardrobe gap of work-appropriate tops. Looking at the fabric again, I decided I would get more wear out of it if it was a top. Choosing Simplicity 3790 (view F, sleeves view E) from my recent St Vinnies haul, I laid it out to cut, then realised the pattern doesn't have a back yoke, only one in the front. Because the yoke would be in the contrasting blue lycra, I wanted it to continue around the body, so whipped up my own back yoke pattern. I also cut contrasting strips of blue for the sleeve hems, and left as much of the original sundress length as possible.

The result is a lovely floaty tunic, casual yet smart enough for work, which has now been worn more times than when it was a sundress!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Art nouveau water lily top - New Look 6754

The warming weather (and dodgy aircon at work) lead me to discover a major gap in my wardrobe—I have a lack of nice, work-appropriate tops. Knowing summer tops use very little fabric, and before heading off to the shops to buy more, I decided to have a ferret around in my scrap bag (aka dump its entire contents on the floor). The first fabric I spied was a piece of cotton printed with art nouveau inspired water lilies, left over from a sunfrock made many years ago. At some stage I'd tied a similarly coloured scrap of plain cotton to it because there wasn't quite enough to make a top by itself (my navel-exposing days are long gone!).


A few days later, I stopped by the Petone St Vinnies and bought three patterns for 60¢ (paid them $3—they're a charity, after all). I decided on New Look 6754 for a top in this fabric, view D with sleeves from view C.

Because there wasn't quite enough water lily fabric for the length of the top, I made a contrast band of the plain fabric at the hem, then also used it for the neck binding and lastly, as visual balance, bound the sleeve hems as well.

Very happy with the results, and it looks awesome with my camel riding shorts.
And if I'd known about Scraptember ... oh well, maybe next year!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Another Tara - Vintage Vogue 1103 in burgundy


Previously, I've mentioned buying vintage patterns via TradeMe from Tara and her mother. Vogue 1103 was the very first. The instance I saw the jacket I fell in love and hit "Buy Now", knowing there was a piece of fabric in the stash that would be perfect for it.


Because I wasn't sure what to use for closures, it remained unmade for nearly six months. Eventually, I spying the large hook and bars in The Fabric Warehouse, which is also where the wool/cashmere fabric and rayon lining had come from sometime earlier.
Once cut, it took only an afternoon to sew together, even those eight slashed-pivot point seams (see image below) weren't as tricky as I thought they would be. So I felt it justified prick-stitching (or pick stitch) the facings by hand.


The finished jacket is every bit as good as I hoped it would be. I'm wearing it daily at the moment (explains the rumpled lining!). It's terrific for this time of year when the mornings and evenings are still chilly, but not so much you need a full winter's coat.
And while I was taking photos, this was happening at my feet...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Vintage Simplicity 3107 in a teal striped wool

Towards the end of winter, I made a dress using vintage pattern Simplicity 3107 in a teal striped wool. However, because I went to Brisbane for a wedding at the end of August, then the weather was warming up once I returned, I kind-of put it in the wardrobe and forgot about it. Until it got ridiculously cold last Monday. It was a nice suprise to find something new and fresh on a miserable "what-am-I-going-to-wear?" morning.

Black patient leather belt from Veronika Maine.
I've had the fabric for a good 20 years, another gift from Jeannie. It was pale grey - a colour I'm a little unsure about with my colouring, especially now I'm letting the silvers grown out on my head. So I dyed it teal, and love it, although it didn't take quite as much dye as I hoped, so it must be blend of some discription. It has a subtle diagonal stripe, which I cut to form a X on the front.
I can't remember where the pattern came from (TradeMe? OpShop?) but I followed the handwritten advice on the envelope ("straight skirt gd. fit") and made version 2, with version 1 sleeves. The only thing I changed was putting the zip in the front instead of back - there's a seam there anyway, so why not us it, right? Really like the finished dress, nice and comfy yet still looks professional. A definite "keep me" pattern to be used again in the future.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The inkblot test blouse

The Fabric Warehouse had a pop-up store on Lambton Quay last year and I couldn't resist this ultra cheap cotton/silk blend. I've been hankering for another blouse like this one, which I wore constantly last summer.


Once again New Look 6144 was used, shortened to blouse length and without front and back waist darts. This time I eliminated the centre back seam and put a zip upside down in the side seam, so the hem opens.
Apart from the fabric snagging on multiple needles and pins, it went together quickly in one afternoon, thankfully – after the DK skirt debacle I needed a success! And they look terrific together.

Pearl necklace from Singapore
Of course, when I tried it on after completion, I pulled it straight over my head without opening the zip, so will remove it in the future because it's a little bulky. Also, I didn't have quite enough fabric for a decent tie belt but as I'll probably wear the blouse tucked in, I'm not too worried. Anyway, for some reason I made a flower out of the remaining scraps, so that rules out putting in an extension. Maybe I'll look for a buckle...

Donna Karan – U.O.Me 1 reel of topstitching thread – black. Thank you.

Boy, oh boy, oh boy! V1324 from the Donna Karan collection for Vogue. What can I say?
Because the first garment I made for an actual human (not a doll) was a skirt; because I've been sewing a very long time, and have literally made hundreds over the (gulp!) decades, I thought if there's any garment I can make without a toilé, its a skirt. WRONG!
I wish I was wise enough to check online reviews of imminent projects before launching gung ho into them.  If I'd read this or this or even this I'd have been weary. But I didn't. And ended up with this:


What the...? I'm sorry, Donna, if you're going to offer up your designs to the masses (especially at Vogue Designer premium prices), you need to toilé them on real women. 6ft tall models are the exception, not the median.
So, after unpicking row after row after row of black topstitching and wacking in enough safety pins to rival Liz Hurley, I had this:


To remove the poocheness, I've dropped the entire front by 2cm, curving the front seams back into the original seam allowance at the point where the two seams meet. Plus the darts have been eliminated entirely as they became unnecessary. Chalk marks denote the finished stitching lines. While I was at it I ripped out the zip and dropped the centre back by 1.5cm - have a slight sway back which usually doesn't need adjustments but this pattern seemed to emphasis it. Also, all seam allowances below the hips were decreased from 1.5cm to 1cm so I can actually walk in the skirt.
But it didn't end there! Trying it on after all those adjustments, I spied the hem dipping down in the front. Fortunately, last week I picked up a chalk puff hem marker for $10 from the Sallies, and 5 minutes later was loping a massive 3cm off the front hem, sloping back to nothing at side back seams.
Finally, one year later, I have this:


Luckily, I like it. May even make it again in denim. (This time it's made in Italian worsted wool, but because I've lightened the pix so the details are more visible, unfortunately it look washed out.)
UFO over and out.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I sew slow and I like it that way

Recently, I read a blog post by a very prolific seamstress on sewing fast. I need to express a different view point. You see, I'm a leisurely crafter, and have reasons for being so. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly capable of sewing fast – use to earn a crust doing so, after all. Sometimes, there are "fast" garments made in between the ones you'll find here. I just personally find them about as interesting as a stack of dirty dishes, and therefore can't be bothered blogging about them.

The garments I do blog about are the ones I enjoy sewing, garments of quality that take time to construct. All are one-offs; all are hand-finished; most are fully lined; many are my own design, while others are from tricky vintage patterns; many are also made using vintage fabrics and trims that demand careful handling.

I love discovering and employing new/old couture techniques which help garments fit and hang beautiful, techniques you would never see in mass producted "fast fashion". Techniques such as waist stays, dress shields and weights I use on a regular basis. Then there's techniques like this which get my creative juices flowing: —how did they do that? —what difference does it make to a garment? —how can I incorporate this technique into a future creation?

But most importantly, I wear ALL the garments I blog about. Regularly. Which is why I take time constructing them. They're built to last. I like to dream they'll eventually pass to someone who understands the effort thats gone into their creation, and will treasure them as much as I do. However, my wardrobe isn't overflowing even though I'm always making something. Because I focus on quality, not quantity.

As tempting as it may be to to churn out a whole heap of "fast" garments for the sake of having more regular blog posts, thats not what I'm trying to acheive. Yes, I should post images of couture techniques I use - generally they aren't visible unless you climb right inside the garment. I should also link you to tutorials explaining these techniques. But I won't re-invent the wheel by create my own tutorials unless I can't find a good one already online (such as with my Spanish Snap Buttonhole tutorial).

So, if you're a slow sewer like me - hey! It's OK! Don't beat yourself up about it - sewing isn't a race. Take all the time you need. You and your garments are worth it.