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!

Merino cardigan from a snagged jersey

One of my cats is a “Hemingway cat”. Amazing as his big paws are, he has problems shedding the claws on his extra digits. If they haven’t been clipped in a while, he snags soft furnishings, carpets, clothing. Demonstrated here.

Unfortunately, a fairly new jersey of Sunny's fell victim to a loving cuddle with snaggle-puss, and was rendered unwearable by a big hole and ladder down the front.
Too good to throw out, I recut it into a bolero style cardigan for myself. The pattern is one of my own, adjusted to fit the confines of the original jersey, including extra seams in discreet places (like the facings) because there was only just enough fabric. I’ve got no idea where the fastenings came from, they've been hanging out in "the trims stash" for so long.
 Since finishing last week, I've wore it several times already, it's so versatile. A welcome addition to my wardrobe.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Indian adventures

Between Sunny and I we amassed so many beautiful photos of our time in India, we decided to create a separate blog to share them with the world.


And here are a few shots as a preview.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Vogue 5782 in Jeannie’s houndstooth

Back in September I toiléd Vogue 5782 in polished cotton for TMS “Vintage Patterns” challenge. This months ‘Sewing Double’ challenge has given me the incentive to finally make it up in the very precious piece of vintage wool houndstooth I talked about then, which has been lurking in my stash for (ahem) a good couple of decades. It was given to me by my favourite tutor - Jeannie Gander* - when I studied Fashion Design years ago; goodness knows how long she had it for. While I appreciated what a beautiful piece of wool it was, it wasn’t particularly fashionable at that time, hence being stashed for so long.

This time I cut the whole dress on the bias, made the sleeves 3/4 length, and pleated the skirt in the front (darts in back) rather than gathering it onto the bodice as per pattern instructions. It’s lined with a liteweight ruby coloured silk satin, bought from Arthur Toyes last year. I also eliminated the sash belt, as this time I think the leather belt works better.

* Jeannie Gander established the clothing design course at Wellington Polytechnic which over the years evolved into the popular Massey School of Fashion. Ever stylish, Jeannie mentored many young men and women, including several of todays leading New Zealand fashion designers. Sadly, she was forced from the course she created, loved and nurtured for decades when it was taken over by Massey University. You see, Jeannie was from the old school of life, and had no tertiary qualifications suitable to hold a position at a University. Ironically, these positions would be filled by students she trained. 
Thank you, Jeannie, I may no longer be working in the clothing field myself, but I think of you and use skills you taught every time I pick up a needle.
BTW, had a fantastic time in India. Check out the pix here - akiwiinindia.blogspot.co.nz