Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Darning; a how to

First of all, I'd like to thank you for your brilliant suggestions for my style statement!  As I read them I just thought, well, how nice everyone was ... thankyou all for "getting" me.  It's really hard to assess yourself and sometimes you need friends to chip in with an outside viewpoint, which is often so much truer than one's own jaded viewpoint.  My mother rang me this morning to say how she thought all your comments were so lovely and all valid... so thankyou again!  I think they're all wonderful and I'm adopting all of them.
Today I'm doing a little tutorial on darning.  I'm well aware there are a lot of people who think I'm absolutely crazy for knitting my own socks, how do I know this?  because this fact elicits gales of laughter if one of my friends lets it slip at some gathering, and someone there will always insist on me lifting a jeans leg to expose a sock to prove it.  But I like knitting, and I've gone off knitting cardigans and jumpers, I've got plenty of scarves now, and I find socks easy as well as useful, so there it is.
I made my first pair of socks about five years ago and I recently had to darn a hole in the toe of one of these so I took a few progress photos to illustrate how this traditional old method works.
I'm good at darning (don't laugh)  I used to help out in my sons' school uniform shop and once a boarder brought in his wool blazer with a hole in it and it was passed on to me as they knew I was a seamstress... when I had finished it (if I say so myself I'd done a pretty good job using a very fine wool thread so the darned hole was almost indistinguishable from the fabric around it) for the next week it was passed around to show other mothers who came in and who marvelled at it, until the boy came back in to pick it up.  I was a little embarrassed but inwardly kinda chuffed at the attention it got...
So I'm not using a fine wool thread to darn this sock here today, but a much thicker sock wool and in a contrasting colour so it will definitely not be indistinguishable from the sock but this won't matter, you'll see why later...  This is what you will need... a darning "mushroom" (these probably have a proper name but I've always called them mushrooms because that's what they look like), wool thread, scissors, needle and your hole-y sock.
Run your thread in a running stitch adjacent to the hole and in an upper corner to secure the end in the fabric...
Take the thread through the opposite edge of the hole with a few running stitches, turn, place a few running stitches going back to the hole, then lay the thread back across the hole, do a few running stitches into the opposite edge, and so on.  What you are creating here is a warp of parallel threads all secured as well as possible in the edges of the hole.
Now, using the same method of securing the thread at the edges, weave the thread up and down across and through through the lines you just laid out.  When you come back down next to each woven line, weave down and up in the opposite way.  With each "pass", secure the thread with a couple of running stitches in the edges of the hole.  This helps stabilise the broken and loose threads into each other, the body of the fabric, and the new woven patch all together.
And voila.  Not an invisible patch, but here I am modelling the final darned sock.  Oh, you can't see it?  Well, this is why perfection in darning one's winter socks is not strictly necessary...

Skirt; my own design, charcoal jersey knit
Top and cardigan; Country Road
Scarf; my own design, black wool
Leggings; Metalicus
Boots; Andrea and Joen, from Uggies

Monday, August 30, 2010

Semi-Fauve socks

Just in time to see in the last days of winter (yay!) last night I finished some new SOCKS!!  I'm dubbing these the "Semi-Fauve socks"; as obviously only half of each sock bears the wild vivid gaudy colours that was one of the the hallmarks of the Fauve school of artists.  From the heel down to the toe is knitted in Koigu KPM sock yarn, colour 2410, a more sombre but still intense navy blue.
He he, before starting these I needed to divide the remainder of the ball of Noro Kureyon sock yarn (colour S102) equally for the two socks, so unwound the ball completely, and started measuring and dividing and of course got into a horrible hopeless tangle...!  When he saw me painstakingly teasing out the tangles centimetre by centimetre my husband just laughed but I persisted until the whole gnarled mess had been teased apart and wound up into two little balls of equal yardage.  Took at least half an hour...  Yes, I am that stubborn and obsessive when I put my mind to it...  and I loathe waste...  As I did it I was reassuring myself the entire time that I was helping stave off Alzheimers.  Isn't the performance of small hand-eye co-ordination tasks that require focus and concentration supposed to help keep your brain functioning optimally?  Well I hope so, because if so then knitting my own socks is sure to be giving me a few extra years of lucidity...!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rusty cords

I've made myself some new jeans, but (warning, lack of elegance alert) they're not very exciting.  They are corduroy, and I do love corduroy jeans.  They are so warm and comfy during winter.  But I'm first to admit corduroy is a very casual fabric and sadly not considered in the same class as denim jeans.  These are my equivalent of trackydacks.  The purpose of my new jeans is just for casual warmth, for when I'm on my bike or the beach, or if on a cold evening I just want to slip something warm on to curl up on the couch and drink tea and knit in front of the TV, so don't peer too close or expect any chic fabulousness here...hehe.
My two old pairs have really got too old and a little threadbare and mis-shapen through use this last winter so I needed another pair.  I used Burda 7863 again, but added a few extra details: namely a zip placket and a little coin pocket that are features present in most ready-to-wear-jeans, but absent from this pattern.  The legs have been flared out a little more from knee to ankle to get more of a boot-cut than a skinny silhouette.  I also eliminated the pocket flaps and added a kinda nice zig-zag decorative feature on the back pockets.  What do you think of this design?  (oh, and do you know how hard it is to take a picture of your own butt?!)
I also fine-tuned the fit a little better.  This is the third pair of jeans I've made from this pattern and the fit is sooo dependent on the stretch of fabric... really the fitting process needs to be worked through all over again with each new pair.

Jeans; Burda 7863, rust corduroy
Top; Metalicus
Boots; Mina Martini, from Marie-Claire shoes

Friday, August 27, 2010

Daffodil Day

Today is Daffodil Day in Australia.
Like just about everyone, cancer has touched my life too.  I have lost family members and friends.  One close friend is a survivor.  It's nice to have a reason to buy flowers.  I would feel outrageously self-indulgent if I were to buy myself flowers on any other day, but today it feels right.  These will sit in the kitchen and brighten up the day of everyone who sees them.  And most of the proceeds are going to a very good cause.
On a fashion note; this dress may well get the heave-ho after Self-Stitched September.  I still kind of like it, kind of don't... love the colour but the weird bodice has always been a problem.  See how the model on the pattern envelope has her arm folded across her chest? ding ding ding ding! ...   Something to bear in mind when checking out pattern photos in the future...  I'm sitting on the fence about this one... but for today it goes beautifully with my yellow scarf!

Dress; Burda 7897, dark olive green bamboo/cotton mix
Cardigan; Country Road
Belt; emu leather, don't know brand
Scarf; d'lux, from Uggies
Tights; Metalicus
Booties; Django and Juliette, from Zomp shoes

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Style Statements...

Personal style blogs, anyone?  Personally, I adore personal style blogs.
I just love to look at clothing choices, how people interpret and use fashion, and am fascinated by the ability of clothes to express one's personality somehow.  People-watching is such a fun and interesting thing to do, because you can really tell such a lot about someone, simply by the clothes they have chosen to wear...
Lately I've been toying with the idea of composing a personal style sentence for myself, just for fun.  I do think I've got a distinct style, and this blog is partly to help me determine what it is (you'd think at my age I'd know by now, yeah)  A personal style sentence would help me make choices in clothing, and everything else, that I won't regret later, both in shopping for ready-made as well as in my sewing endeavours.
I've already had some debate with Mum and Cassie, about each of our own style sentences, but none of us are satisfied with what we've come up with.  I thought mine could include the word "sporty" but Cassie disagreed strongly.  It's because she associates the word "sporty" with tracksuits, which I NEVER (ever ever) wear... but I am outdoors a lot and am reasonably active in my life so I think "sporty" could be in there somewhere.  "Polished sporty"?  Hmmm.  Have to give it more thought... but so far I've come up with some adjectives to play with: natural, simple, sporty-but-not-of-the-tracksuit-variety (outdoors-y?)...
I once read about a two-woman company, Carrie & Danielle, who assess people's lifestyles and come up with a two word Style Statement to describe them.  Just two!  As an example; Modern Luminous.  The first word describes your core; the second word is your creative edge.  It's a kind of style sound-bite, or mantra that is designed to streamline your consumption choices.  (Oh, and it's nice to know it's all positive; no one is classified as Grumpy Stress-bunny, or Whiny Neurotic...phew) While a small cynical side of me rolls my eyes at the narcissistic desire to categorise oneself, the other side of me is attracted to just that.  So part of me is "how silly" and the other part of me would just  love to know what my two words are...!
Afterthought: this was my ensemble for today's agenda of dog-walking and bike-riding, followed by grocery-shopping and a smidge of office work.  It was good to be out and about on such a glorious day.  (and looking forward to the final of the Ben Cousins' documentary tonight...)


Cardigan; refashioned by me from husband's old jumper, which has already stretched and is overlapped decoratively and fastened with a pin to a new better fitting position
Top; Sexy Woman, found secondhand
Jeans; Soon
Pony necklace; souvenir from girls' weekend away, some little shop in Melbourne
Boots; Francesco Morichetti, from Zomp shoes

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bluey/pink loopy scarf

I've made quite a lot of these loopy scarves, here and here are two of them... this is the one I made for Mum's birthday a few years back.  She looks lovely in this group of blues and purply pinks, I reckon...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New use for a hole-y old top

Another re-fashioning project has been completed... yay...
This pure wool top is a pretty shade of pink but had developed some nasty big holes over summer storage.  I continued to wear it as a thermal for a while, with its pink edges peeping out and adding a layer of colour to other ensembles but then as the holes got awfully big I sadly accepted it was too raggedy and resigned it to the re-fashioning bag ... (you can see one BIG hole centre front lower edge, but trust me, there's about four other littler ones lurking about there too...)
Firstly chopped its arms off.
I cut some thumb holes in the ends at the correct "thumb" height and overstitched the edges of these holes to finish.  Then finished off the cut top edges of the sleeves with an elastic zig-zag stitch.
(Oh, please excuse the weird Adam-reaching-out-to-the-hand-of-God-from-the-ceiling-of-the-Sistine-Chapel pose, tried to achieve a naturalistic hand position and failed, sorry!  At least you can see the buttonhole-bound thumb holes...)
With the hole-y body of the top I removed the neck edge, and cut off the side seams.
Opened out the top and bottom of the top (still hinged at the shoulder seams) and cut right up the middle, being careful to leave enough width at the ends of the loop.  I also rounded off the square edges of the loop and cut out the hole that was really big.
Dunked the new scarf in HOT soapy water and did plenty of whooshing about (it's a technical term) to felt up those raw edges as much as possible (have you ever tried to take a photo of your other hand swooshing fabric about in a bucket?  It's a little like the rubbing-the-tummy-while-patting-the-head thing; the same kinda tricky feeling...)
Voila; new hand warmers and a sort of artsy scarf...!  This is a good way to re-use an old top that is a colour you love.

Handwarmers and scarf; refashioned from wool top
Skirt; Vogue 7856 view B with some added skirt bits, grey and black printed cotton
Top and cardigan; Country Road
Boots; Andrea and Joen; from Uggies

Monday, August 23, 2010

Going for the full skirt look

I went through my wardrobe this weekend, to determine how easy it was going to be to fulfill my own personal Self-Stitched September challenge of "all handmade with no double-ups".  I learnt some things; firstly, thirty outfits is a LOT of outfits!!  Secondly, and as I thought, the tops issue is the tricky part.  I've realised during the chilly months I practically live in store-bought cardigans and Metalicus tops!  Most of the tops I've made are summer weight, so I'm going to have to allow myself the additional clause to wear my trench coat on any day that is a bit chilly!  I've also realised that most of my handmade separates have been made to "go with" an existing store-bought item that I've had for years. Matching up my handmade separates will be an interesting exercise, please be kind if you think one of my ensembles isn't up to scratch...!  Of course I have some tops that go with all the skirts and pants, and vice versa, and some separates that are difficult...  Also I've got quite a few dresses that haven't seen the light of day for months... why?  because I don't like them anymore.  Obviously I've got current favourites I've been wearing a lot lately and should be mixing up more...  I was debating with myself whether to go ahead and wear some less-than-favourite dresses during September, or to keep some back for reserves, or to ruthlessly evict them from my wardrobe...  no one's getting evicted just yet, but may have to get together a Salvo's bag or add to the refashioning pile next month, sigh...
This skirt is part of my standard go-to (seen here) for when we go to live theatre or the ballet... it's very warm (to survive air-conditioning!) and perhaps a little too luxe for day-wear.  However, put it on for today anyway...  this look is inspired by the latest looks in Australian Vogue; the full skirts with prim blouses, little button up cardigans and "rockabilly" shoes.  This is the fullest skirt I've got!

Skirt; Vogue 8296 view B, (expensive!) cream printed wool from Astratex
Top; Brown Sugar
Cardigan; Allure
Socks; (stolen from husband!) Discoverer
Boots; Francesco Morichetti, from Zomp shoes

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pink lace dress

I've made a new dress for spring, but I've persuaded Bessie to model it for today... because I've started to think about Self-Stitched September coming up where I'll be documenting my handmade daily outfits everyday (hope that's not going to be too boring) and no doubt I'll be wearing it one of those days and will take a snap of myself then.  I've decided to challenge myself to wear totally handmade, save for tights and shoes... and to never double-up.  It will be a challenge, so I'll see how I go.  May have to pop on a store-bought top or T-shirt getting to the end of it, but I'll try not to...
I bought this pink lace back in the Fabulous Fabrics sale last December and finally got around to sewing the dress I first envisioned back then... the first hurdle was of course that the fabric is completely see through, so a slip was an obvious mandatory requirement.  For some strange mental reason, I determined to finish this slip to moderately high standards, yes, even though it's a slip.  I get these funny urges sometimes, maybe it's because of reading other peoples' blogs about applying immaculate finishes that is spurring me on...  I'm not always this patient because sometimes you just want to get the thing done, no?
Anyhoo, the slip has French seams on the side seams, and Hong Kong binding on the centre back seam, where the invisible zip is inserted.  The lower hem and the bodice facing is all invisibly stitched by hand (OK I do do this to all my dresses), although I'm not 100% happy with how the hem looks and may do a different finish on this (any ideas?)... the silk satin won't be pressed into a traditional double fold hem as flat as I would like.  The ribbon straps have lingerie findings incorporated to enable the straps to be adjustable.  The pattern I used for the slip is Burda 8071, and for the dress itself I drafted a heavily modified version of Simplicity 3745.  Heavily modified in that all the gathering and pleating and the zip has been removed from the dress in order to streamline the silhouette and to use less fabric.  The lace is a stretch so can just be pulled over my head.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Moebius strip, in wearable form

Oh, I finished a new scarf.  Or cowl, more accurately.  A ginormous cowl.  I finished it a coupla weeks back and put it in one of my photos yesterday, in the outfit that seemed to have been the most popular with my kind commenters. (and thanks all, for your comments!  I do love comments!)  But the cowl hasn't been properly introduced here, so here it is in its own showcase post.  I used about six and a half of the ten balls of Patons Jet 100% wool I bought at the beginning of winter, and after this and the Snow Bunny beanie still have about two and a half balls left, what to make next?  Thinking maybe legwarmers....? Hmm.
Cast on 50 stitches, K2 P2 ad infinitum until one reaches the required length.  Mine is roughly 175cm long.  Then I sewed the ends together.  Oh, and I put one twist in the scarf before sewing up, so it's really a giant Moebius strip rather than a loop.  I like it with two drapes around the neck, but it's easily long enough for three drapes if I want.  It becomes more of a big pseudo-turtleneck collar with three loops.
Seen on my walk this morning below: definitely signs of spring in the air, the arrival of the cygnets.  I love watching the new batches of cygnets grow into adulthood.  

Skirt; my own design variations, based on Vogue 7303, pale pink damask
Top; Country Road
Trench; Burda 7786, modified to be double breasted and with added tabs, beige cotton
Scarf; my own design, cream wool
Boots; Andrea and Joen, from Uggies

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Leopard twin-set; 6 different ways

I haven’t done one of these for a while and I just felt like doing another one, thanks to my enthusiasm for my new leopard print twinset!
I foresee the future usefulness and versatility of this twin-set is in the fabric and the print.  Firstly the jersey is close knit and of high quality that looks quite luxe; and here I’m just going to say I reckon it pays off in the long run to spend a little more on quality fabrics.   Your clothes will last longer, they will look better, and most importantly you will look better in them too!  Isn’t the time and effort you put into your dressmaking worth a good quality fabric?
Secondly the print is a mix of ivory, grey, charcoal and just a touch of black, a particularly useful colour combination to have in a print.  I don’t know about other ladies, but I have a lot of solid colour neutrals in my wardrobe and not many prints.  Although I love neutrals with a passion, just occasionally I feel I look a little uninspired and dull when I wear them as a set of unrelieved solids.  Every now and then a print, and particularly an exotic print like this, is what is needed to refresh and add a touch of interest to a mix of blocked neutral solids…
Of course the beauty of a twin-set is that it can be split, the top and the cardigan can work separately with other garments as well as, natch, together.  Is this cheating, doing a six way styling feature using essentially two garments?  Well I don’t think so… anyway here ‘tis…
When going casz, the top and cardigan works just as well for summer and winter...
At left, when a tiny bit more chic-ness is required, say for shopping or running errands about the neighbourhood; and at right, for the first time I've included an option for business attire!  I don't have very much need for business wear in my lifestyle, but I think this combo is smart enough for this purpose...
And for a more dressy option when say, meeting friends or the husband for lunch, or going out in the evening (the ensemble at right is how I wore it last Saturday night for a soccer wind-up dinner and presentation at Sam's school, he won fairest and best trophy for his team!! so proud... )

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cross-stitch initial cushions

These are some cushions I embroidered with my parents' initials a few years ago (hehe, when I was into cross-stitch a while back...)  and sewed up the cushion covers with some gathered broderie anglaise edging.  I think on the backs I sewed proper little fold-over closures with buttonholes and cute pearly buttons; but I forgot to turn over the cushions when I was taking this photo to refresh my memory...  Mum and Dad pay me the honour of having them permanently sitting on their bed, and I love the all-white embroidered and belgian lace bedlinen they have here... but then the all-white look is my favourite decorating style.  As well as in clothing... but I'm told white doesn't suit me so I shouldn't wear it so much.  Apparently I should stick to ivory or beige.
On my walk this morning; below, the first signs of spring?  Seems incredible but there it is.
Truthfully I am sick of winter.  More accurately, I'm sick of the cold, we are still so desperate for rain.  My friend J was telling me how they may turn their sheep loose into the crops because the growth has been so pathetic they may as well utilise it for sheep feed... a bad situation.  She's measured that they've had all of 127mm of rain this winter (non-metric people, that's about 5 inches) and everything is as dry as a bone, keeping fingers crossed for a wetter spring...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jacket inspired by ?

Well, I've reduced my refashioning bag by one half of an item; being that the pockets of this new jacket used up one leg of Sam's old khaki corduroy pants that had holes in the knees...  so I'm gettin' somewhere, if not very fast!!  I also managed to use up some stash fabric, which I've decided I don't like very much...  Bit of a story behind this fabric; well, I've had a failure.  I don't like to dwell on failures, but I'll just mention it briefly then move quickly and smoothly right along and it will be in the past, never to be referred to again.  Right?  Right.
Well, I had downloaded a free Alexander McQueen jacket pattern at some point, the link is here; if anyone wishes to torture themselves with nightmare-ishly difficult patterns then feel free to go for it...  I think I missed out on some key page of the instructions, because after two attempts with lots of unpicking I still had something looking like this...
Hideous, no?  Well, we live and learn... I might still have another go at this pattern, using fabric that is not patterned, not so loosely woven and not a wee bit stretchy, all three qualities contributing to a very bad jacket-making experience.
So instead I stitched up the below very simple jacket pattern of my own design.  I don't love this jacket.  I think it will be OK for casual warmth when I'm walking the dog, maybe I will come to love it more with use.  Its problematic genesis has prejudiced me against it, poor thing.
I basically copied the pocket design off a designer jacket I saw in Vogue magazine (although my pockets are not as ginormous, and the purpose of mine is to cover up seams of patched together fabric), but I don't know who the original designer is, if anyone recognises it and can tell me I will gladly acknowledge the source...

Jacket; pattern drafted by me, pockets from Sam's old childhood pants
Jeans; Country Road (these are going in the refashioning bag too, soon)
Top; Country Road
Shoes; Lute, from Betts and Betts