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!