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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

For Tara's mother – tie dyed Vogue 5558

From time to time I buy a pattern off TradeMe. It can be a bit of a gamble; you never know what condition they are in, and unfortunately I have received incomplete patterns. Some, I suspect, are commodities from dealers who don't know (or care) much about sewing. Others are from crafters like ourselves, who cherish their patterns like precious jewels.
Tara's mother was one such lady. I was lucky enough to strike up a little rapport with Tara during our trading, and discovered her mother had won Benson and Hedge Fashion Design Awards in the late '60's (in the "High Fashion" and "Evening Wear" sections). I didn't like to ask why she was selling off her mothers patterns, but they arrived in terrific condition, a testament to her mother's care.


Vogue 5558 is one of the patterns. As usual, I made a wearable toilé - luckily, because thinking the pattern would be a bit too small I added ease, only to find I really didn't need to. I prefer the neck to tie on the right so flipped those pattern pieces.


The fabric is lightweight wool, the remnant of a bulk purchase from The Fabric Warehouse many years ago (already made into two shirts). It was originally very pale salmon pink in colour, which is a terrific base colour for dyeing, as it slightly "muddies" the new colour. 


The remnant was already dyed blue, but since I was making a toilé I decided to have a little fun and tie-dye the piece. Using the book "Contemporary Batik and Tie-dye" by Dona Z. Meilach as a guide, I roughly pleated the fabric, then tied in a fairly even criss-cross style. Next time to allow more dye to penetrate, I won't tie so closely or tightly, but I'm happy with the result for this toilé. So, a win-win!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to make dress shields - removable and reusable!

Dress shields attach to the underarms of a garment protecting it from perspiration stains. I make and use them regularly for garments made in precious fabrics I don't wish to wash/dryclean more than necessary, such as "Jeannie’s wool houndstooth dress".
Claire B Shaeffer briefly describes how to make them on pages 132/3 in her book "Couture Sewing Techniquesbut I have a slightly different technique worthy of a tutorial.
First, gather your materials. You'll need a dress, blouse or jacket pattern (any womens' size, armhole scyes are pretty much consistent), pen or pencil, paper (newspaper will do), pins, soft cotton fabric (I'm using old pillowcases here), thread, sewing machine, sewing needles, and 8 domes (sew on snap fasteners). Plus a garment to attach them to!

Take the front and back bodice pieces of your pattern and pin them together at the side seam. Pin onto the paper (newspaper) and trace the underarm seam from front (B) to back (A) notches (approximately 18cm/7 inches).

Remove pattern pieces and from the centre point (C), mark down about 10cm/4 inches (D). Freehand draw a nice scoop between points A, D and B. It doesn't need to be perfect - no one's going to see these! When your happy with the shape, cut it out.

Cut 4 of this shape out of your cotton fabric. Add an extra 1cm (or 1/2 inch) to the scoop edge and cut another 8 - if you're making shields to use in a jacket, you can cut half of these out of lining. This will make one pair of shields.

Place a small piece onto a large piece, matching armhole seams and sew around scoop edge. Do this to all 4 small pieces. Then sew 2 of these pieces together along armhole seam; and again for the other two. Sew the remaining pairs (without smaller bits) together along armhole seams. Clip and press seams open.

Now make a pair of shields by matching the halves with smaller bits to the halves without. Make sure the smaller bits are sandwiched between the layers. Overlock/serge or zigzag around the whole outside scoop edge.

Next, make a cup of tea, put on your favourite DVD and put your feet up for some hand sewing! Sew one side of domes (snap fasteners) at points A, B and D (there will be double D's (tee, hee) on each shield) and its partner onto the garment in the corresponding points, which should be approximately 10cm down each side seam, 10cm down each underarm seam, and at front and back armhole notches. Snap together and you're done!


If you need a bit more protection you can increase the number of smaller bits sandwiched in the middle, or use a layer of winceyette or light towelling instead.
Also, sewing the shields in thread the colour of your garment makes it easier to match back to the correct garment when they come out of the laundry.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Merino cardigan from the scrap bag

Some time ago I made this tunic top with lace inset
I'm not sure where the merino came from originally, but it must have been relatively cheap, because there was quite a bit left-over in the stash, enough to make a semi-fitted cardigan.


I made the pattern by tracing a sweater onto paper, then cutting a bit off the bottom of the pattern for a hip band, a bit off the centre fronts for front plackets (mainly because there wasn't quite enough fabric, otherwise I would have extended the fronts to create fold back facings), a bit off the sleeves for cuffs and did some dodgy arithmetic to work out how long the neckband needed to be. If you try this method for yourself, remember to add seam allowances before you cut your fabric.
Czechoslovakian glass buttons complete the cardigan - a wonderful find in Taupo of all places!

If your wondering why my mannequin is covered in black lycra, I've finally put a little junk in her trunk, using this tutorial and a bunch of old shoulder pads. Garments hang much better now she has a realistic shape!