Monday, November 30, 2009

"Duro" dress

I made this dress from Simplicity 3745 view C (no bow), out of spotted swiss cotton voile with a crotcheted lace trim.  I was inspired by the "Duro" dress that was touted in Vogue magazine as being flattering to all figure types.  Well, I dispute that theory, as when I first put on this dress to show my family they all said it looked like a maternity dress.  And I looked pregnant.  Well, no thank you very much!  I've already been there done that (quite a few years ago) and it's not a fashion look I'm aiming for, actually!  So I sewed down the pleats in the back to try and slim it down a little (see picture below).  I thought this improved the look of the dress a lot.  I also added big pockets, both for practicality and to add interest to the front of the dress, and lined it with plain voile as the single layer of swiss voile was completely see-through.  Even with this lining it is still a light floaty dress and will be cool to wear on hot days.  I'm particularly happy with the look of the crotcheted lace trim.  Can't get past my love of white lace...
Today I'm meeting the Monday morning gals for lunch at Cottesloe beach, as its our last Monday before the school holidays we may only see each other sporadically for this time.  Some of us are going to the beach for a swim first; well, I intend to swim even if none of the others do!  Others may just sit on the beach looking pretty.  That is definitely not my thing.

Other details:
Cardigan; Metalicus
Necklace; souvenir from Murano, Venice
Shoes; Sandler, op shop

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tea Cosy, specimen 3

This is my version of the Chicken Little tea cosy I knitted for my friend L from "Wild Tea Cosies" by Loani Prior.  I chose these colours for L because she often wears soft browns, olives and greens such as these (and looks lovely in them too), and because she is very artistic and I knew she would appreciate the lumpy rustic beauty of this tea cosy.  This look is due completely to the nature of this lovely multi-coloured fleecy wool which varies from sometimes very skinny to sometimes very fat!  A bit of a challenge to knit as you try to avoid getting "patches" of fat or skinny areas appearing, but are aiming for an overall even spread of thicknesses somehow.  However managed this successfully and I think the outcome is rather gorgeous, if I say so myself!
The cosy is photographed on L's outdoor table, with her china.

My husband and I had breakfast and went for a lovely walk along the beach this morning with friends, and did masses of housework this weekend also, so a mixture of fun and drudgery; but I'm looking forward to doing some more dressmaking this week and making a start on the fabric I bought on Friday!  Also I've nearly finished a dress I've been working on for a few weeks, so will post pictures of this in a few days, with luck.  I've even remembered to take progress pictures this time, a first.  Getting out the camera and snapping pictures of my stuff has never been something I've ever done in the past, but it's been fun even if my pictures are less than professional!  Well, can only improve with practice....

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dress with weird bodice...

I made this dress for last winter from Burda 7897 from a dark olive green bamboo/cotton mix fabric from Fabulous Fabrics.  It was a pretty good basic dress that I wore a lot, but the bodice was a bit weird and I always ended up wearing a scarf or stole over it as I am for this picture.  I'm not sure why it was such a flop; literally, as well as metaphorically.  Maybe it was designed for a big-busted woman, but even if so the bodice wasn't too big for me, just sort of baggy and drape-y in an unattractive way, as you can see in the picture sans stole which I included for honesty's sake.  
As for the rest of the dress; I liked the flippy nature of the skirt, and the length and simple style of the sleeves, the pattern for which I've used in several other dresses and blouses.  I also decided that I wanted to line the whole dress with bemsilk for warmth, the provision for which wasn't in the pattern instructions.  However I plowed ahead anyway, and eventually managed to get it together with a lining, this really improved its wearability in winter.
I may make this pattern up again, but I would modify the bodice drastically if I did.  I'm not sure how, but I'll have to get to work on Bessie one day with some fabric scraps and sort something out.  I think it would look a whole lot better if it was a bit more fitted up top.
Keep you posted...

I wore this to a casual cocktail party last night with my new shoes from Iceland which I am totally in love with.  In fact I am planning most of my future autumn and winter wardrobe around colour schemes in honour of these shoes, that's how much I love them!

Other details:
Stole; d/lux, from Calico and Ivy
Belt; emu leather, bought from Luxe
Shoes; KronKron, from Iceland, bought online

Friday, November 27, 2009

Self-drafted pants

These white linen pants I drafted from my favourite jeans (see here) and even though I've got my new pants pattern Burda 7944 that I really like; I still love the fit and shape of these I'm wearing today and think I will use this again.  And again.  The top of the pants is a very flattering shape as it isn't darted or pleated, but has a separate shaped waistband that is curved to fit.  Most dressmakers will know that a flat bit of fabric however it is darted, tucked, pleated or manipulated will still not fit as well as properly curved and pieced garments.  Yes, it's more time consuming to cut and sew, but there it is.  
Whenever I've sewn pants with a curved waistband the fit is always superior to a straight waistband.  The trade-off is that a curved waistband uses more fabric, to a waste-phobe like me that is something to struggle with.  Alternatively you can try to dart a straight waistband to achieve the curved fit you require... problems, problems; oh, the dilemmas of achieving the perfect fit!  A common anthem for seamstresses the world over!  I guess it doesn't ever get any easier, but the challenge is what keeps us going.  That and the satisfaction of a producing a great pair of pants - finally!  And I do love these pants.  I've decided to reuse the fabric from my other white linen pants posted about before, as they just don't do it for me any more.  Another project.  Hmm.  At last reckoning I already have about six unfinished projects lurking about the place.  And yesterday I went to Fabulous fabrics and bought some more fabric.  And I also bought three new patterns the day before.  Confession time.  Hanging my head in shame.
Moving right along, I've had a few queries as to the absence of Sienna; well, she's always around but doesn't always deign to slip into the photos.  Recently she spent a day getting pampered at the beauty salon and has come home with a beautiful new 'do.  See how stunning she looks in her photos!

Other details:
Top; Metalicus
Sandals; Neo, bought at Nine West?
Necklace; from the surf shop on Rottnest Island

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dad's birthday present

I've resolved to include in this blog more pictures of projects in the making; however my latest project had to be kept a secret as my Dad reads this blog!  I chose this coloured wool for a scarf for him because I think Dad is an Autumn like me, or more accurately I should say I am an Autumn like my Dad!  This lovely wool leapt out at me as soon as I laid eyes on it at Calico and Ivy and I knew it would be perfect to complement his wardrobe as I see him wearing dark brown or green jumpers a lot during winter.  Also my husband bought himself a scarf recently which he has been wearing a lot even in this hot weather, and I am quite liking the look of scarves on men just as a decorative accessory and not necessarily as a functional neck warmer.
I used three balls of Lang Mille Colori, made in Italy, colour 914, and 3mm needles (if you plan on making this, bear in mind that I knit quite tightly and a "normal" knitter will probably be using 4mm or 4.5 mm needles, check your tension if in doubt)
Cast on 24 stitches (incidentally the age Dad was when I was born!) and knit 1, purl 1 until end of row.
Next row; Purl 1, knit 1 until end of row.
Repeat these two rows until wool is finished.
Easy peasy!
This, of course, is moss stitch.  I debated over using moss stitch as I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it.  I love the look of it, but hate doing it.  All that wool forward, wool back; breaks up the easy flow of knitting and requires concentration.  However, scarves only really look any good if the back looks the same as the front, and I think garter stitch can look a little amateurish.  I wanted Dad's scarf to look smart, so moss stitch it was.
When it comes to knitting scarves where there is not really a defined front or back, the knots and joins can sometimes be a problem as you can't just hide them in at the back.  I usually just tie a really tight and tiny knot and then weave the ends in a best I can (see close-up picture).  If you can hide the very fluffy end bit inside a strand of wool in the knitting, so much the better.  I know this sounds nit-picking (or should I say knit-picking?!), but these little finishing touches can make a big difference between an obvious homemade job and a smart and beautiful piece of wearable art.
Many thanks to Dad for agreeing to pose for the blog!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chapel cushion, specimen 3

Here tis; chapel cushion numero tre, dedicated to my youngest son.  This design was chosen because he was such a happy sunny child always smiling when a small boy.  Note the use of past tense, now he's a teenager he is decidedly less sunny, but I'm sure he will start being nice again.  Soon.
I should explain that the initials on the cushion stand for "in his care", with the cross incorporated; similarly the cushion I posted about yesterday the initials were for "in his service".  Just saying, for information like.
When I attended our Auxiliary AGM recently it occurred to me that this was probably the last time I was stepping foot on the school, for a while at least, so I took the opportunity to nip into the chapel and take these pictures of the three cushions; that's why they're appearing three days in a row, boom boom boom like that.  And I'm sure it's nice to have a change from my modelling efforts.  I have done plenty of embroidery and craft projects in my time, but my first love is dressmaking and fashion and always will be, I think.  Thus the heavy emphasis in this blog on clothing and the like.
Have had a little project brewing that I will reveal tomorrow, for reasons to become clear...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chapel cushion, specimen 2

This second tapestry cushion I worked for my daughter's school chapel was dedicated to my eldest son.  I chose this design because it contains most of the letters of his name.  And if you squint a bit and join the first "i" on to the next symbol, you can imagine an "m", thus it has all the letters of his name.  Well, it may seem like a strange thing to think but it occurred to me the first time I saw the design, and it was just one of the idle thoughts that kept flickering through my brain throughout the hours I spent stitching it.  I spent some time meditating on his name and why we had chosen it; being our first child we spent hours discussing names and drawing up lists, rejecting ones that resulted in funny initials and ones with dubious meanings, honing it down to the perfect name.

It's often funny, the kinds of things that occupy your mind during a long and drawn-out project, like these cushions were for me.  Sometimes you are just thinking about the mundane nuts and bolts of your life, like bills that are due, what you need to buy next time you go to the supermarket, a meeting you have coming up and what you should keep in mind to say...  Other times you find yourself musing on the big questions in life, or the lives of those close to you.  Once I helped finish a quilt for a friend who was too ill to finish it herself, and she passed away shortly after it was finished.  As I was working on it I found myself meditating on her and her life, and thinking about her circumstances a lot.  It was a very sad time; I'm the sort who usually pushes away grief and painful thoughts, and working on my friend's quilt was an enforced period of time for me to reflect as I knew she didn't have long.  She died too young, and it was an introduction to the sad time when we begin to lose our peers, friends in our own generation.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chapel cushion, specimen 1

My daughter's (now ex-)school has a wonderful tapestry cushion project going, whereby people can embroider a tapestry cushion to donate to the chapel on behalf of someone of their choice.  Most people chose to donate on behalf of their daughters at the school, but I did one each for my two sons as well as this one for my daughter, for fairness as the boys' school doesn't do stuff like that.  People's cushions were sometimes a multi-generational affair, with grandmothers, mothers and daughters all contributing to the embroidery of their cushion.  A number of different designs are available and the aim is for no two cushions to be alike but all matching with similar borders in a few colourways and for each design to have some biblical significance (they are chapel cushions after all).  They are used in the chapel for special occasions, and there is a lovely book with photographs of each one and a brief summary of its maker/s as well as its dedicatee (not sure if that's a word...)
Anyhoo, this is the first cushion I did, for my daughter.  I chose this design because I liked the colours of soft pinks, terracottas and greens, as well as the palm leaf design.
Cushion, specimen 2, to be featured tomorrow, and 3 the day after...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ghost Paw

Yesterday at the nursery we bought three of these new kangaroo paws, the colours of which I think are absolutely stunning.  The stems are dark purple and the paws at the top are sage green.  So unusual.  We are pulling out a bed of roses that have never performed all that well and replacing them with these and a few other native plants.  But while they are still in their pots I decided to use them in today's photo shoot.
I made this outfit for last summer and wore it a lot then; the top is McCalls 4454 view C and the skirt is Vogue 7880 view B.  The straps and edging on the top are a lovely thin natural coloured crochet border with black velvet ribbon woven through, some of the latter I used to make a little bow on the bodice also.  The bottom edge of the top and all the edges on the skirt are finished with a black rolled hem done on the overlocker.  The fabric is a self embroidered soft sage green.  The days are warming up but this purple Metalicus cardigan is thin enough to wear on a mild day like today.
After a bit of gardening we plan to visit my brother for his birthday ( and photograph my sister-in-law's tea cosy!)

Other details:
Cardigan; Metalicus
Thongs (flipflops); bought in some little shop in South Africa

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Strings of pebbles, washed smooth and soft...

This is a necklace I made a few years ago at the height of my beading phase.  I loved these uneven lumpy beads that remind me of ocean-smoothed pebbles on a European beach in that particularly gorgeous mix of smoky purple, grey and muted rose that they have up there.  

This necklace was carefully planned down to the placement of each and every bead and the random-looking twists and knots are the result of intricate and precision placement  ...  ha ha ha, not really ...  It looks jumble-y and spontaneous because that's pretty much how it was made!   The only planning was to string small lengths of the small beads interspersed with either two or three medium beads and an occasional large thrown in.  The necklace was twisted, knotted and fitted to Bessie (the dressmaker's dummy and sometime model) before separating the strands into "neck-sized" lengths, tied off, and a lobster claw and jump-ring knotted to the ends.
Today a busy day in the garden is planned and probably another trip to the nursery, maybe some afternoon tea with my husband somewhere?  Hope so.

Other details:
Skirt; Desire, op shop
Cardigan and camisole; Country Road

Friday, November 20, 2009

We will fight them in the sewing rooms...

When I saw this happy sunny cotton print at Fabulous fabrics last year I had to make something out of it immediately.  I love the bright bright colours of this fabric and the sort of vaguely exotic ethnic print on it, a mix of paisleys, florals and medallions all overprinted and shadowed on each other.  I made the skirt from Vogue 7880, view C, a pattern I've used quite a lot as I like all the random overlays.  This is the longest version, the one my daughter complains about when she sees me making it up ("why do you always make skirts too long, Mum?!")  On this particular pattern I've usually finished the edges with a rolled hem on the overlocker, and it was making this skirt that I discovered a golden rule of overlocking; always use overlocking thread on the overlocker.  For this project I was using a mix of leftover threads in various colours, some overlocker threads, some ordinary sewing machine thread, and boy, did my overlocker chuck a major hissy fit.  I got so frustrated with it unthreading itself, thread breaking etc I was ready to heave it straight in the bin.  However I managed to breathe deep and regain a zen-like calm (ha!) and eventually got it finished.  And by "eventually", I really mean "eventually".  Like hours later.  Yes!  I am master of my overlocker.  This skirt is the spoils of a war with my overlocker that I WON and my overlocker now knows to submit to me.  Yeah, right...
Had a very pleasant day today (except that I'm now facing office work); visited a nursery with my friend E, then spent some time with my sister-in-law, before running a few errands.  Looking forward to the weekend!

Other details:
T-shirt; Country Road
Thongs (flipflops); Mountain Designs
Cardigan; Nine, bought at Labels
Pendant; bead from Gypsy Bead

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tea Cosy, specimen 2

Here is my friend D's tea cosy.  Looking back I think it was the first Roly Poly one I made out of "Wild Tea Cosies" by Loani Prior, the first of many (future posts to feature subsequent examples)  Her birthday was back close to Easter time, so it seemed fitting at the time that her tea cosy looked a bit like a little basket of Easter Eggs in pretty pastel colours.  It was photographed on her outdoor table with her tablecloth and china (and we had a cup of tea after).  Unfortunately I didn't realise when taking the picture that the cosy's mauve underskirt had rolled up underneath and so is not visible here. 
Tea cosies seem to be such old-fashioned concept, that is experiencing an inexplicable resurgence in popularity and "coolness".  People are currently knitting the most funky and glorious tea cosies imaginable.   
The wool for this tea cosy came from all various sources; the green from Calico and Ivy (I'm currently knitting a jumper from the same), the pink and mauve from the now sadly defunct Cottonfields, and the blue I bought in Paris from Anny Blatt, a truly adorable wool store.  The grey is leftover from A's tea cosy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Romance in an everyday basic

Today the sky is white white white, and the wind is swirling and billowing about in the trees every which way.  So naturally I feel compelled to wear a white lacy top and to try to curl my hair. Seems a bit random? well I can see the connection anyhow.  Just seemed fitting.  Wuthering Heights, again?  Although me curling my hair is asking for trouble.  I could hardly brush it after.  Serves me right for dreaming up yet another way of procrastinating on all the work I need to do...  As it turned out the sun popped out from behind a cloud just long enough for me to get a sunny picture...
The top I'm wearing today is an oldie.  It was made from quilting cotton with crocheted lace strips inserted in the front and back.   I used this pattern New Look 6483, with a few variations obviously.  In my usual fashion, once a basic pattern has proved itself in terms of fit I then feel compelled to improvise with each use.  I was trying to copy a top seen in a Vogue magazine, for which I've just hunted unsuccessfully and I can't remember the designer I'm afraid.  My version has been a very useful top; reasonably pretty, loose enough for warm weather and very comfortable for casual days.
This New Look pattern is an excellent basic pattern with no frills.  It is a simple matter to add interest with a few minor variations.  In this case I squared the neckline, altered the sleeves by puffing them up, inserted horizontal and vertical crochet strips on front and back, added a few pin-tucks, made a front bottom panel longer and gathered it to fit, added border crochet strips...  Well quite a few variations, but I was just playing with it at the time and the end result seems to be a keeper in my wardrobe as it has resisted every seasonal purge.  Admittedly white/off-white lace is rarely tossed out by me as I'm strangely drawn to it.  The whole aura of nostalgia and romance as represented in late Victorian era photographs and illustrations has such timeless appeal, no?

Other details:
Jeans, Development

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Not too crafty" It bag

Here is another knitted project, a bag that was knitted free-form with no pattern.  After casting on I just randomly did a few cables and whatnot and literally knitted until the wool ran out.  I popped a vinyl "bag" of the same size (made from padded table protector vinyl sold off a huge roll) inside for strength, and then lined with a blue and white print cotton on the inside of that.  The gold chain is attached firmly to the vinyl inner bag so that the bag can take a reasonably heavy weight without sagging unattractively.  Closure is by a magnetic snap, and the old diamante brooch is just pinned on the outside flap for looks.  I've hardly ever used this bag, but after the lovely compliments I got today perhaps I should use it more often.  Main problem; you can't carry an awful lot in it just because of the small size.  It's really just an elegant day bag for a few essentials.  (I forgot to put in a pen and had to borrow one; great secretary, huh?)

I wound up my secretarial duties today for the school Auxiliary and handed over my files and notes to next year's secretary; as my daughter has finished school I will no longer be doing this job.  The end of an era, still can't really comprehend it, I guess it hasn't really sunk in.  I've made some great friends through that school so I'll keep on seeing those friends I've made, hopefully.  I can't deny it was a relief to hand over the "secretary" bag, though!  We had a lovely lunch after our meeting and I'm now sitting at my desk trying to recall what we discussed at the AGM for the minutes.  Post champagne, this could be a problem...

Other details:
Diamante brooch; bought about 20 yrs ago from secondhand store at Fremantle Markets
Top; Tutte, from Mid 70's, gift from my parents
Camisole; Country Road
Skirt; Rodney Clark; op shop
Sandals; Marco Santini, from Marie Claire