Thursday, April 5, 2018

Cargill's Castle, Dunedin, New Zealand

As a child, I spent many happy hours with my Grandmother, listening to stories of her extended family, who settled in Dunedin after arriving from Denmark. Many of the stories revolved around time spent with cousins at 'The Cliffs' or as it's known locally, 'Cargill's Castle'. Her uncle - Harry Lyders - built the 'castle' for Edward Cargill, subsequently purchasing the property early in the 20th century for his own family.

One story in particular has stuck to this day - how as children, she and her cousins were allowed to use the ballroom as an indoor rollerskating rink! The ballroom was added some years after the castle's original construction, which Uncle Harry considered a "folly", and consequently had no desire to preserve. A holt was put on indoor cricket matches however, after windows were smashed and needed replacing to keep the weather out.

Earlier this year, the combination of cheap flights and Wellington anniversary weekend provided the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Dunedin and visit the castle. (Interestingly, I drove unaided directly to the property, even though never having been to Dunedin before). Now surrounded by a new subdivision, it's inaccessible to the public, but by telling my story to a neighbour watering his garden, he allowed me to pass through his property to reach it.

The passage of time has not been kind, with the castle now so structually unsafe it's ringed by a barbwire topped fence. Well past the point of restoration, I believe there are plans to sure it up enough to allow it to open as a ruin? (Please correct me if I'm wrong).

It was quite a strange experience walking in my forebearers footsteps. As the future of the castle hangs in the balance, I'm glad I made the effort to visit this once.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Embroidered cotton blouse - New Look 6808

Moonstone silver necklace from Jaipur, India.

Springtime last year, I had a brain-fade when I couldn't locate several summer tops (including thisthis and this), and convinced myself they had be donated to charity in a wild KonMari decluttering session. They duly turned up in a suitcase (I hear you tut-tutting, Marie!), but by then I had already bought replacement fabric from Morelands to make another embroidered cotton blouse.

New Look 6808 was in my pattern stash, and I made this blouse using view D/E, minus the collar. Sleeves are shortened view A. By eliminating the waist darts, I'm able to pull it over my head, so I also got rid of the centre back seam and zip. As the fabric is quite transparent, the blouse is lined with cotton voile, which is cut to the neckline to avoid facing seams showing through. Finally, to make the most of the gorgeous scalloped selvedges, everything is cut with the straight-of-grain on the cross.

One annoyance was the embroidery on the fabric was inconsistent. I recut the front neckline slightly where this was particlarly evident, as one side had noticeably more lattice than the other. I also hand-basted the side seams before machining, because the embroidery pattern needed a bit of easing here and there in order to line up.
In Aotearoa, we've been enjoying the most glorious, extended summer (a real joy after a bitter winter), so it's been a blessing having more than one cotton blouses at hand. And yes, Marie, they all "Spark Joy".

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Kelly Green Merino Hoodie - Butterick 6101

A few years ago, I was tempted into buying a piece of merino sweatshirting I saw on TradeMe. It wasn't cheap - about $35 p/m from memory, and a minimum of 2 metres, but I was intrigued because I hadn't seen merino in this form before (nor since), plus it's my favourite colour. The idea was to make something warm for shavasana, as my yoga class can be chilly mid-winter. I pinned many ideas over the years, before settling on a classic hoodie.

At Moeraki boulders wearing Kelly Green Merino Hoodie (Butterick 6101)
An old, tried-and-trusted pattern - Butterick 6101 (ca. 1980) became the basic template, with a few tweaks. Pockets would be a must, plus I added cuffs and a hip band. The hood in the pattern is lined, but because the merino has a wonderful soft fleecy backing, I left it unlined, instead making a flat-felled seam down the centre back to keep it neat.

The hardest part was finding a zip and cord to match. I considered white, lime green, daffodil yellow, brass and chrome, before finally finding a dark green zip in The Fabric Warehouse - not perfect, but close enough. There doesn't seem to be any cord in Wellington that isn't black or white, so I created my own out of fabric.
Hands-down my favourite make in recent times.
(BTW, can anyone tell me what happened the lady's leg (with the tennis racket) on the pattern?!)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

70's Denim Skirt - vintage Style 1559

When I was 16, one of the first self-drafted patterns I ever made was for a denim skirt. I loved that skirt, wore it for years until it the zip broke (by which time it was looking very tired), then promptly made another. Since then there has pretty much always been a denim skirt in my wardrobe.

This version started with a circa 1976 pattern - Style 1559 - as a base. I liked the length, pocket detail and button front. But after months of fruitlessly searching for suitable buttons (ie, ones I liked), I ditched that idea in favour of a fly-front.
However, great plans don't always run smoothly. First fitting was a disaster! The skirt was so frumpy - too wide at the hem, the waist too high, and goodness knows why the fly-front pucked so much. Into the naughty corner it went for some timeout.
A few days later, I'd formulated a rescue plan. Gone is the fly front, moving to an exposed zip in the centre back; the high waistband was re-cut into a 4cm wide curved yoke at high-hip level; and finally the seams are slimmed at hem length by about 5cm each side.
But the god(desse)s were against me, because 20 minutes into sewing it all back together, the LED bulb in my lamp blew. At 7pm. On New Years Eve. And it would be 2 days before the stupid lighting store re-opened. sigh.

Not able to bear the thought of wasting precious time, I ploughed on during daylight hours. The topstitching isn't perfect, but hey! I still love the skirt and it's already being worn several times.
Brass zip and topstitching thread from the stash.
Denim from Moreland Fabrics
Belt from David Jones

Monday, November 27, 2017

Purple plaid jacket mash-up

Five years ago, I received a wonderful suprise gift from my aunt. She was having a clean-out, and gave me two lengths of wool fabric – enough grey camelhair to make a coat, and a lovely piece of wool plaid, predominantly purple in colour.
At the time I was working in a very exposed south-facing office with floor to ceiling windows. It permanently cold as it saw no direct sunlight—ever. I made the most of every bit of the plaid fabric shortly after receiving it by making it into a dress. It was like being wrapped in a cosy blanket, and was on high rotation during the following winters.
My work moved into its current office early last year. Now the temperature is at a pleasant level, I no longer need to wear the dress. However, as with most other countries in the world, in winter, layering is de rigueur.
Since the fabric was still in excellent condition, I decided to unpicked and recut it into a jacket. I liked the velvet inlaid collar from Simplicity 3146, but unfortunately couldn't use the rest of this pattern because there wasn't enough width for the kimono sleeves. Instead, I turned to Simplicity 3120 (circa 1959) for the body and sleeves. However, there was absolutely no way of matching the check across the body to the sleeves, no matter how hard I tried. Disappointed, and though the jacket was near completion, it became a UFO, hiding in the back of my closet.
Fast-forward to last months TMS challenge when Bracken mentioned she also had unfinished jackets and coats hanging around. We challenged each other to complete one of them in time for November's Amnesty Day. Out of the closet it came.
It was actually very close to being finished, just the sleeve linings need attaching and buttons and buttonholes. But after trying it on, I decided to also re-position the side bust darts and add a velvet cuff – the sleeves were just a touch too short for me.
While I'm happy to be finished with it, I have to to be honest and say I like it but don't love it. The fit is still not quite right, and I don't at all like the velvet cuffs – but they're ok rolled up. Still, it will get worn next winter, I'm sure.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Simplicity 6068 grey wool houndstooth jacket

Late last year, my mother and I were browsing in an Op Shop and spying a piece of wool jersey, I commented "You don't see fabric like this anymore". Returning home, she disappeared into her sewing room, and reappeared sometime later with a lovely piece of grey houndstooth wool jersey. She can't remember exactly how long she'd had it, but for many years. Would I like it? "Yes please!" I love the kind-of punk fading check pattern.
There was about 1.2 metres (a rough-cut metre), x 1.4m wide, not much more than a skirt length. But it didn't feel like a skirt to me. At first I entertained the idea of making a tunic dress, before settling on a short jacket. From my own stash I pulled Simplicity 6068 a pattern from 1983, but soon realised there wasn't going to be enough fabric even to make that, so I need to get creative.

To achieve the fade from hem upwards, the body pieces had to be cut on the crosswise grain (hem on the selvage), while the sleeves were cut on the lengthwise grain. But there still wasn't enough fabric. I scoured the shops until I found matching grey leather in The Fabric Warehouse and cut a yoke and pocket trims. It was a very tight squeeze, the facings are scraps patched together, and there are virtually no left-overs.

I'm very happy with the results, and as you can see by the rumpled photos, it has been worn a few times already.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Vogue 8628 (ca. 1955) for an afternoon wedding in rural Queensland

Attending an event in another country means serious planning. Besides travel and accommodation, finding something comfortable and appropriate to wear rockets up the essentials list. Thank goodness I can sew!

After resisting buying the cotton sateen fabric (but totally making it up in my head), as soon as the wedding was announced, I raced into Morelands and bought 1.5m. I knew exactly what it was going to become.
Vogue 8628 (ca.1955) is another of Tara's patterns hangin' out in the stash, waiting for its moment to shine. Pocket flaps were eliminated, as was the front button closure – a back zipper added instead (and centre front placed on the fold), but other than these small changes the pattern is as is. Surprisingly, the fit is perfect, even though it should be too small.
Originally, I planned to wear the same purple pumps worn to the last wedding attended, but a little shopping in Cotton Tree turned up a pair of leather sandals in exactly the right shade of pinky-purple - it took very little convincing they were better suited to the rural setting. Belt is from Pagani.

Wonderful wedding, lovely newly-weds, terrific venue and I've a versatile new frock (and shoes) to boot!