Friday, December 31, 2010

Cassie's dress

This is the dress I made our daughter for her Christmas present this year.  I know her tastes very well and could picture exactly the dress I wanted to make for her, but was quite anxious about how to go about it.  Cassie is the most difficult one in the family for me to sew surprises for, for the following reasons:

1. In order for her to like it, it had to fit her perfectly; neither tight or clingy, or worse, saggy and baggy.
2. I wanted it to be a length that made both of us happy.  Once upon a time, not too long ago, if you had drawn up as a simple Venn diagram of preferred dress/skirt lengths for Cassie, comprising two sets representing mine and Cassie's preferences; the intersection of the two sets would have been quite a tiny one.  Luckily she has grown up some and is aware that while barely bum-skimming skirts might be greatly appreciated by guys when a girl bends over to pick something up, that sight of publicly exposed knickers is often a moment of horrified self-awareness for that same girl's friends.  "OMG, don't tell me I've ever looked like that?!!
3. She loves sewing herself, so is always super aware of what I am currently sewing.  She also loves to go through the fabric stash, looking for something suitable for herself, and often wants to come with me if I go fabric shopping.  This makes embarking on a secretive project an extreme challenge.

So, how to make her a secret Christmas dress, that fitted perfectly, and of a length that she would be happy with?
Well of course, it couldn't really be much of a secret in the end.  But she has a sense of humour and we managed a compromise... she stood in the laundry with her eyes shut while I did the fitting.  Again with her eyes shut, a mutually satisfying length was decided on.  The surprise for her was just the final look.
The stretch lace I used for this very simple Tshirt dress is of course see-through on its own, so I lined the dress completely with a soft silky like jersey matched in colour to the dress.  The sleeves are unlined.  I positioned the body and sleeve pieces on the length of fabric so the natural edging edges the sleeves and lower hem.  The seams are all overlocked to finish on the inside.  I didn't finish the lower edge of the lining because it is that wonderful type of jersey that never frays. 
I think she looks just beautiful in it.
And she loves it too, so I couldn't ask for a more happy result!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A boxy little jacket; a refashion

I'm so pleased with this latest refashion that I finished just yesterday, that I just had wear it even though it's really too hot for this time of year...
I took an old pair of too big, light cotton twill pants that my mother didn't want anymore, and made for myself this loose unstructured jacket that I am now totally in love with...
I realise it may not be everyone's cup of tea and I'm not sure Craig is very keen on it, but meh...  I really like it!
I first got the idea after seeing some of the Desigual designs, using old jeans upside down as the bodice of dresses, see below from Desigual.  I know, I know, mine doesn't look much like this, but I'm just trying to illustrate where my original inspiration for this idea came from...
This is the pair of pants as they were originally...
I cut along the inside leg seams, not the whole way down the legs but just in the crotch area, and put it upside down to be used as the bodice of my new jacket; with the cut-open old leg/crotch seam as the new neckline.  The excess leg tubes were cut off to be used later as sleeves.   I sewed the jeans legs together for my shoulder seam...
Cut away some of the side seam for an armhole edge.  This was my first armhole cut, which is why the armhole looks a bit too small; it took some trial and measuring to get that armhole length perfectly fitted to the sleeve circumference ("sleeves" being the old lower legs above I just cut off)...  In trialling something experimental like this I'm a big believer in cutting away not-enough and then having to take away a little more, rather than cutting too much to start with and then regretting it...  (Horrible sentence, but I'm sure you seamstresses know what I'm talking about there)
I used one of these armhole cutouts to cut a triangle to fit in the V of the back, and sewed it in, mimicking the double topstitching featured elsewhere on the jeans...  Oh, I did have to unpick the curve of that back centre seam some and re-sew it to be straighter before this step.... again mimicking the double topstitching for continuity.  The top of this back neck edge was finished on the inside with a short strip of bias binding for stability.  As for the back; the curved part of the front crotch seam was unpicked a little bit and resewn to be a straighter seam, and then the V of the front neckline was folded in and finished also with double topstitching.
Set in the sleeves.  The sleeve hems are just the old jeans hems and were left intact for ease of finishing.
I topstitched closed the edges of those slanted front pockets, and removed the back pockets (now upside down) from the back of the jeans and repositioned them right way up onto the front of the new jacket.  See, the waistband of the jeans is still the waistband of the new jacket, and that fly can still be unbuttoned and unzipped for ease of taking on and off; just that it's upside down now...
Et voila!

Jacket; my own design, refashioned from an old pair of light cotton twill pants
Skirt; my own design, based on the shape of Vogue 7303, black lace and black lace strips
Tshirt; Tbox
Thongs; Mountain Designs

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tim's shirt

This is a shirt I made for our eldest son for a Christmas present.  I didn't need to be secret working on this one, as he was working up in Kalgoorlie up until only a few days before Christmas.
I'm glad he got a job where he is earning some good money but I did really miss him...  oh dear, empty nest syndrome coming on already?  sad...  :(  
Anyway, we are making the most of him being home now.  And he has probably at least another year of Uni at home.
This fabric was a bit of a *&%# to work with.  Excuse my French.  I've had it for about a year, toyed with various projects in my mind, possibly a shirt for Craig, draping it over Bessie to get inspired for something for me etc. and finally came to terms with the fact Tim was the best one in the house to carry off this "deconstructed businessman" fabric.  The fabric is heat set into random crazy creases, and is slightly stretchy, thus the %$#@ factor, have you ever tried fine precision tailoring with stretchy or pre-creased fabric??  And I like for mens' shirts to be well tailored... well, I just had to accept the quirks of this fabric and go with it as best I could.  I think I wrestled it into some sort of submission with minimal meltdown on my own behalf.   Anyhow I'm very happy with how it finally turned out.  And most importantly Tim likes it too.  He wore it on Christmas Day, and has worn it out to two other parties with his friends since, so must do!
The pattern is Burda 7767 again, this time made up pretty much as is but with narrower sleeve cuffs, the addition of two breast pockets with asymmetrical flaps, a long curved hem and the use of navy blue snaps in lieu of buttons.
I also added this iron-on "raging bull" motif.  Hehe, this is kind of funny because there is no one less like a raging bull than Tim...  It is actually one of a series of horoscope signs, and Tim is not even a Taurus, but meh...  I liked the colours of this motif against the colours of the shirt, and I thought it needed a little extra something to make it less formal and wicked enough for a young bloke.

Shirt; Burda 7767, pattern review here, cotton with probably a spot of spandex for stretch?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lichen shot-cotton shirt

This is a shirt I made for Craig for his Christmas present, cut out and made up in lots of super secret cloak-and-dagger sewing sessions... although he did help choose the fabric a year ago, so perhaps he might have had some inkling...
But he was nice enough to act satisfyingly surprised and delighted when he opened his present.
The fabric is Kaffe Fasset shot cotton, bought online from, only the second time I've bought fabric in this way.  Usually I prefer to feel the fabric myself with my own two hands to weigh up its suitability to the project I have in mind before purchasing.  Actually "prefer" is too soft a word; I consider this a non-negotiable essential rule for buying fabric...  But I'm familiar with Kaffe Fasset cotton, having come across it before in a local shop (Calico and Ivy), so I knew it would be a good choice for lightweight summer mens' shirts.
This fabric is a dream to work with, and as the word "shot" implies, has a bright cobalt blue warp combined with an intense acidic yellow weft, to give the fabric this deceptively subdued mossy green hue.  I chose thread exactly matched to the yellow of the weft, for all the topstitching.
Same old same old Burda 7767 again, with his custom fitting modifications, plus two breast pockets with shaped flaps and a longer curved hem.  Well, with the shorter sleeves as well obviously, and also I added a little decorative button detail to the sleeve hems for fun.
Very easy; here is a quick how-to...
Before sewing the sleeve and side seams, measure the desired length of sleeve from the top of the sleeve cap and mark with a pin
Turn back the seam allowance, right sides together and mark centre point.  Also mark with pins points 1cm each side of centre point, and 1cm into the seam allowance, creating a little right-angled triangle on the sleeve edge.
Sew along the two short sides of this little triangle, trim and clip into the corners.
Turn the seam allowance to the inside of the sleeve, wrong sides together and press.
Now sew the sleeve and side seams as usual...
and turn up, press and sew the sleeve hem allowance as normal.  I topstitched along the hem edge to help hold those little peaks in place.
And finally, sewed some smaller (4mm) buttons on the peaks.  A side note; it took me ages to find the two different sized but matching buttons for this shirt...  got these from Fabulous Fabrics.  I used these smaller buttons for the collar button-down too.  (Is there a correct term for that?)
Cute, no?  I think this would look even cuter with an acute angle... haha.  
See, I made a little joke.  

Monday, December 27, 2010

Vogue 8555; a pattern review

(shamefaced) I took some more photos of the dress; inside because the ones Craig took on Christmas Day were a tad blustery.  Yeees, don't know if you can tell or not but I was being windblasted about mercilessly and those photos are the only ones in which my hair did not look like wild animal on top of my head... so I took some more civilised ones to accompany my pattern review!
High winds, and 40C (104F) and an overnight low of 23C (74F); this is perfect bushfire weather so we are all keeping our fingers crossed for no disasters, please...
Without further ado...

Pattern Description:
Dresses A, B, C, D, E, F have lined bodice, front pleats, front gathers, back darts, self-faced midriff, back zipper and skirt variation.  A. B, C: lined, slim skirt in two lengths with front and back darts, bbac k slit.  D, E, F: skirt in two lengths with front and back pleats, pleat underlay and side seam pockets.  A, D: gathered sleeves with sleeve bands.  A, B, D, E: mid-knee length.  C, F: below mid-calf
Pattern Sizing:
8-22 altogether, I bought the 8-14 option and cut size 10
Did it look like the drawing/photo on the pattern envelope once you had finished sewing it?
I sewed view F but made up a completely different bodice front; otherwise yes.  My personal feeling is that the fabric used for the sample in the pattern photograph does not do it any favours... but that's just my opinion...
Were the instructions easy to follow?
What did you particularly like or dislike about this pattern?
I didn't like the bodice, thought it would be too bouffant for my figure so drafted my own more fitted version.  I LOVE the big big skirt of view F!!  
Fabric used:
Printed cotton, with cotton voile for a lining and petticoat
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I constructed a completely different bodice front, details here.  I did this both to get a more fitted bodice, as well as to inject some interest to what is otherwise a pretty basic design...  I also added a waist tie, to tie in a bow at the back and to nip in the waist more.  Also added an attached petticoat to "boof" up that skirt even more, and used an invisible zip in lieu of a dress zip.
Would you sew it again?  Would you recommend it to others?
I will probably sew it again, if not this view then one of the slimline skirt looks.  It is a very easy pattern, with nice variations.   Highly recommend it to sewers of all levels; with this proviso: if you are not buxom then look closely at that gathered bodice front before using it.  You may wish to either modify it, or substitute a different more fitted bodice as I did.
I love this dress, and anticipate wearing it a lot.  It is super comfortable as well as beautifully feminine with that big twirly skirt, and big deep pockets to shove one's hands in.  Big pockets on a dress are such a bonus.  However I am also glad I went with a fitted bodice.  In my opinion a more slimline bodice sets off a big skirt better, provides a well proportioned silhouette.

Dress; Vogue 8555 view F, with bodice of my own design details here, waist tie and added petticoat, printed cotton
Shoes; Sandler, had for donkey's years

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, all!  Wishing you a wonderfully happy and peaceful day together with your families and friends!

Dress; Vogue 8555, with a bodice front of my own design, and added petticoat and waist tie,  printed cotton
Shoes; Sandler, had for many years

Friday, December 24, 2010

Dressing for a road trip

What to wear for a very long hot drive down into the country; joining the entire clan for a massive Christmas celebration en famille...?  Exhibit A.
But vaguely halfway stylish and not tooooo casual; for the dropping off of a few prezzies and returning an overdue video on the way, and a short interval hopping out of the car at the halfway point petrol station, the only times the general public will view my person and possibly judge the book by its cover.   Er, that's me, the book, natch, being judged by my clothing by the way, in case you missed the tenuous reference...
Not that I had to worry, the standard of dress amongst drivers hanging out at the middle-of-nowhere petrol station today was... well, low, to be blunt.  But I still like to make some effort.  After all, I'm with my family, and I still care that they see I have some self respect, and make the effort to look nice.  That matters.
I'm sure they will still love me all the same.
But that's not to say I won't be going all out tomorrow; steppin' out in my new dress.  Yaas, managed to finish it and I'm dying to show it off.  Never too weary to get excited about a new party dress...
One sleep to go...

Top; my own design, refashioned from an old pair of linen pants, here
Shorts; Burda 7723, white linen
Thongs; Mountain Designs

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New life for an old polo Tshirt

Dipping into the ol' bag of toss-outs I took out an old polo Tshirt of my husband's.  He never wears it anymore, but the fabric is quite OK if not super duper beautiful or anything...  It is made of a type of sport's fabric which is really cool to wear in summer so I thought of turning it into a little summer dress.
First thing, it had an embroidered logo.  Obviously that was not going to do...
So I unpicked the pocket and moved it up and over the logo to hide it.  I also unpicked the neck facing and seam holding the collar in place and removed the collar, and cut off the sleeves.
Using an old favourite pattern Burda 8071, I cut out a dress body, keeping as much length as possible and keeping the original hemline intact to become the new hemline of the dress (hey, every bit helps).  In lieu of the body darts stipulated in this pattern which would not have worked with this kind of stretchy jersey fabric, I simply removed a slice from each of the side edges that would have been the dart allowance...
I re-used the sleeves to cut out pocket pieces, constructed these and inserted them in the side seams.
Now as polo shirts button up at the centre front I was aiming to keep this feature and use it for the dress's closure, rather than putting in a zip.  With the very last leftovers from Craig's striped shirt, I managed to get out the pieces for the bodice, cutting the back in one piece and the front with a button and buttonhole band for a centre front opening.  I used a little scrap of piping cut on the bias to add some interest to the front opening.  The lining was the last leftovers from my most recent white shirt...
The shoulder straps are just some cotton banding I had in my stash, and on the bodice I used little white shirt buttons matched in size to the navy blue buttons already on the polo shirt...
The inside seams of the dress are finished with overlocking, and the bodice lining is invisibly slipstitched in place.
Et voila!  Not glamourous, but I think quite cute enough, and will be a very useful little knockabout dress for a hot working day around the house.
Which is what is on the agenda for today...

Dress; partly Burda 8071, partly my own design, refashioned from an old polo shirt and some scraps
Sandals; Micam by Joanne Mercer, Hobbs shoes