Monday, February 28, 2011

Smoky short sleeved mens' shirt

I made for my husband another shirt using the Kaffe Fasset shot cotton from purl soho.  This fabric is so wonderful to work with I've considered a few times sneaking off with it to make myself something instead of for him... but that would not be playing fair, right?  This fabric was bought with shirts for Craig in mind, and I must stick with my original good intentions.  No matter how fabulous it is... sigh
The name of this colour is Smoky; and has a deep purply blue warp and a lighter periwinkle/baby blue weft.  I've put in a picture showing the different threads below, because I know everyone is totally and completely fascinated with fabric and its composition and loves to get up close and personal .... no? er, that is just me then...hehe
This shot cotton is very light and almost sheer, and is perfect for mens' summer shirts.  I often feel sorry for men in the heat of summer, they have to wear shorts or trousers, and don't get the option of floaty unfitted dresses like us girls, which are so much cooler.  I know for myself when the temperature is brutally high I almost can't bear the thought of a constricting waistband, trapping in the heat and suffocating my body.  This fabric is light and breezy and just gorgeous.  And a dream to work with.
I made this shirt using Burda 7767.  I've used this pattern so many times now it is practically a sloper, whatever that is.   Such a strange word, yes?  
There are not many variations introduced into the pattern this time, it is a pretty basic effort.  There are two breast pockets with flaps, and the sleeves have been shortened.  Of course, the shortening of the sleeves makes for a heaps easier construction, not to mention a decent amount of leftovers that I might manage to get some little thing out of for me!  The lower hemline is curved.  This can be quite difficult to do with some wovens but not so much with this great fabric.  I think the looseness of the weave is just enough so it has a very slight stretch to it, making a double foldover hem around those curved edges not so much of a problem.
I used up some leftover thread (from my rusty corduroy jeans) to stitch this.  Plain mens shirts look great with contrasting topstitching, and I adore the vibrancy of this strong tomato red against the dull denim-y blue!  I was also lucky enough to find the perfect buttons.  There is one sewn decoratively on the outside of each sleeve hem for a bit of interest.  Also there is a buttonhole on each of the collar ends, but this is purely decorative and has no button, nor is it even cut open.  This is just a casual shirt, but I like these echoes of businesswear details on a casual shirt sometimes.
(btw, about the headless shots?  sometimes he gets shy and requests this....)

Shirt; Burda 7767, with minor fitting and design modifications, shot cotton

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Grecian ball dress

I made this ball dress in 2004, for a conference function we were attending in the Louvre in Paris, where I couldn't look underdressed. It was an important event in our calendar and I needed to dress to impress.  Thankfully I think I looked suitably presentable.  I remember being super happy with my dress and the very glamorous Parisian evening.  The dress is still in my wardrobe, so I must still feel good about it!
Since then I have worn this dress to three other balls and about three or four other things, so it is my most worn formal dress.  At the time of its construction, Grecian goddess-y looks were quite fashionable so I was inspired by that trend.  But as it turns out this is quite a classical design that I really do love, so I'm sure I will wear it again in the future too.  On one occasion I made an appropriately styled headpiece and handtorch from cardboard, aluminium foil and gold cellophane and went to a costume ball as the Statue of Liberty, and had my picture snapped for the newspaper as a result.  My picture in the paper is not a common occurrence!  At the mo' I can't find a picture of that outfit, but if I do I'll put it up here...
I made it using Vogue 2480, out of silk satin in two shades, that has additionally a (synthetic?) thread running through it to make it subtly sparkly.  The two colours are oyster white for the underdress, and a coolly subdued sage green for the top part of the dress.  I love the draped design at the left hip, as well the long skirt has a beautifully shaped little train at the back that I think is very flattering.  The only slightly strange thing about the pattern is that as the draping is all on the left side of the dress, the invisible zip closure is on the right side.
So, obviously this is not a daily outfit post, but I had my hair done the other day and I'm not one to let a good hair day go to waste.  I haven't shown this dress here yet, and I decided the day of a professional 'do is a good day to do this dress justice.  Plus I'm anticipating Me-Made-March '11 coming up and a daily outfit post for a whole month... (oh dear) and I don't want to risk boredom by OD-ing on the daily outfit post thing.  You'll get enough of that soon enough.  I'm just worried that if the weather doesn't co-operate (by that I mean cool down just a tad) I will definitely be the most boring participant in this challenge because the same few little sundresses are just going to appear day after day.  I would really like to avoid that scenario.  Let's face it, the same outfit over and over is... totally not exciting.  

Dress; Vogue 2480, oyster white and sage green silk satin
Shoes, Nina, from David Jones

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mineral Green socks

How much do my feet hate me right now?  So much, and why? oh let's not get onto the weather again...
Which brings me to this, I apologise for all the whinging yesterday.  I always promised myself I wouldn't whinge about stuff on this blog, and what did I do yesterday?  Whinge.  About the weather, no less!  Sooo trivial... sorry.  A girl is entitled to an off day every once in a while, hm?

So, on to my new sockies.  These are the socks I started knitting in Japan, and have finally finished.  Sam bought this wool for me when he was in Melbourne on his volleyball tour, after I had given him precise directions to the wool shop.  It is just about exactly the colour of all my children's school uniforms, so has traditionally been rather an un-liked colour about this house.  I was a bit surprised that he chose it!
As I've mentioned before, I've always felt knitting my own socks to be quite "worthy" and I feel strangely virtuous that I do this.  I put some more thought into "why" and came up with the following... my family lived through WW2 in London (before my time, obviously), and knitting socks for the troops was in that time and place a very worthy thing to do for the war effort.  All women did it, it was the right and patriotic thing to do and all were proud to be doing it.  It was a highly lauded activity.  After thinking back on it I've realised that this pride in knitting something as basic and necessary as socks is an attitude amongst the females in my family that has subliminally been passed on down to me too.

Socks; made from Morris Empire Superwash Merino 4 ply in Mineral Green (col 415) with Beluga toes and heels, adapted (as always) from the Ladies Sockette's in Patons Knitting book C11, a circa 1960's publication.
Pussycat; hand-carved by my grandfather

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Another hot day... and some glove stuff

Strange thing.  When I logged onto my blog this morning, it popped up and said I am following no blogs!  How did that happen?  I don't recall going through and un-following any blogs... perhaps I am a far more active and computer-savvy sleepwalker than I ever realised... 
Has this ever happened to anyone else???
Anyway, I am sweltering...  without a doubt my bathers are the most worn items in my wardrobe this summer; I am in and out of them at least four times a day.  In and out of the pool.  I'm a believer that if one has a pool (which we are hugely fortunate to have) then one should not use the air conditioning.  The downside to this is that Perth has not dipped below 22C at any point over the last ten days or so, meaning all night we are stifling.  The only pleasant time of the day is first thing in the morning, when we do get down to around 22C and it is bliss to get outside of this oven of a house and flop into the pool, again.  Of course, by mid afternoon the aforementioned oven is a cool cool haven compared to the fierce heat outside!  Every now and then the family gets jack of it and switches on the air conditioning despite my rants about greenhouse gases etc  Oh I've just googled and 22C is 72F on the old scale.  Highs generally 36C, or 98F.
In glove stuff...  Lauriana and Darci have both made a start on their gloves, which is fabulous... and I am waiting to see how they go on their muslin gloves.  I am still unsure about cutting into my lilac suede skirt.  In fact as it has been hanging in my laundry awaiting its execution I am starting to regain a new fondness for it and am fantasising about all the great combinations I could make with it...  as a skirt.  It may well find its way back into my wardrobe.  I do have another op shop suede skirt that is a very 70's beige and that I have never worn.  I might chop this one up instead.
Lauriana mentioned an unusual seaming around the thumb in her store bought leather gloves... and I got out my own leather gloves to have a look, and on all of my four pairs of leather gloves that I currently own there is the same strange gusset/flap arrangement sewn into the thumb area too  (see below).  I've never consciously noticed this before!  This feature is definitely not in my Vogue glove pattern, and what is more I think this sort of seaming would be way beyond my capacity to draft for myself.

Top; Country Road, originally white and dyed with ground turmeric
Skirt; my own design, charcoal grey jersey knit
Necklace; made by me, tutorial here
Sandals; Anna, from Marie Claire shoes

Gloves (below) a souvenir from Venice.  Look at this lovely detailing on the back....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Little yacht romper

A blast from the past for today...
This is a little romper suit I made for our eldest Tim when he was tiny.  I have no memory of where I got the pattern, it might have been a TopKids design, but I do have a very vague feeling I just saw it in some Women's Weekly crafty publication, hehe.  It had a pocket at the front with two appliqued yachts, edged with zigzag stitch and with red satin stitching to represent the hulls, and some tiny little embroidered flags at the top of the sails.  Turned up cuffs and lining, in contrasting yellow.
It was a nice little thing that all three of mine wore, but this is the only photo I have, of Tim wearing it.  If you would like to see what this cute little kiddie looks like now, go here...

Monday, February 21, 2011

A new sundress

I made a new sundress for myself... using the summer-weight cotton fabric I had bought during our shopping day out in Tokyo with Yoshimi and Novita.  Japanese fabric!  This now is one of my wearable souvenirs from our trip...!
The weather has been so so so so hot! that I still need some light little sundresses, even though perhaps I should be starting to think about autumn and winter sewing now, with days as hot and dry as we have been getting it is hard to believe it is ever going to get cold!  Dabbling my feet in the water here was so nice I really didn't want to leave this lovely little spot and get back to my daily chores, plus a mountain of office work that I've been putting off... woops, sewing has been so much more interesting to me lately I forgot I had to do actual work as well!
I used a Burdastyle pattern, dress 114 from the 5/2010 issue... and have to say I like using the patterns from this series.  It's economical and feels a bit more of a challenge to make stuff this way.  It's not as though I'm new to this sort of tracing-out-of-patterns, as I made many many things from the Topkids magazine when my kids were little, but I haven't done it for a few years so it feels a bit new.  And yes, as a commenter said on one of my posts previously, the pattern instructions are usually a lot more challenging too, because you are not walked through with helpful little illustrations like the conventional envelope patterns.  I think I'm very visual, because I find that way heaps easier.
Before I hemmed this dress I tried it on and it felt a bit too short.  Which is funny, because it's not as though it's actually any shorter when compared to many of my sundresses, but because of the very wide pouffy swirly A-line skirt it did feel shorter... if that makes any sense...  so I hemmed with a very narrow hem and also made some little shorts to wear underneath from the leftover fabric.   Fortunately I just had just enough leftover to squeeze out one pair of shorts... and so I am perfectly safe from a strong breeze showing the world the colour of my undies.  Back when I was little my mother used to make me lots of little dresses with matching bloomers to wear underneath, and this is the same principle.  Except these are not bloomers but tailored shorts with a zip and welt pockets, and all...  I'm not showing the shorts off here, because I have way too much class to lift my skirt on purpose... you just have to trust me that they are there and I will show them off on a future post.

Dress; Burdastyle 05-2010-114, Japanese cotton
Shorts; (worn under) Burdastyle 10-2010-111, Japanese cotton
Hat; Country Road
Sandals; Micam by Joanne Mercer, from Hobbs shoes

Pattern Description:
A-line sunback dress with empire seam under the bust has a skirt of two gathered tiers, and side seam zip.
Pattern Sizing:
34-42, I made size 36, and made it a little wider at the bust
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you had finished sewing it?
Were the instructions easy to follow?
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
It is super easy!  There are only two pattern pieces to trace out, the skirts are just rectangles. 
I love the loose flippy feel of it, it is a comfortable and lovely style well suited to our hot dry summers.  This same super-flippiness however also compelled me to make a little pair of matching shorts to wear underneath!  If you wanted to, the instruction provide dimensions for a third tier to make the dress a maxi length.  I didn't think the maxi-length would have suited this print, however.
The only thing I didn't like, well, it's my own fault, I wanted pockets and inserted them in the side seams, and that lower tier falls at just the wrong place, just where I wanted the pockets to go!  No biggie, the pockets just sit a few centimetres lower than I would have preferred.
Fabric Used:
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I cut out the back bodice wider and higher to have more coverage, I did this to to avoid bra-strap exposure.  
I added inseam pockets, which sit just at the top of the lower tier.  As I mentioned above, this is a tad too low, but I can live with it.
I added about 3cm to the length of the lower tier, and I'm very glad of this little bit of extra length.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I probably would sew this one again.  I highly recommend it as a very easy, pretty and feminine little sundress.
Great little dress; cute, very comfortable, feminine, cool and breezy.  I am going to enjoy wearing this one!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gloves: finishing off, and a pattern review

Relax, the difficult bit is well and truly over.  All that is left are straightforward finishing off seams... easy peasy!

The version I chose here has a long gathered body to it, with elastic sewn in the long sides to bunch it all up elegantly.  The instructions say to sew in a zigzag stitch down the length of the elastic like so... all well and good.
Then I sewed up the remaining side seam of the glove...
Now, to attach the elastic to the flat ironed-out seam, as specified in the instructions is an impossibility on my standard ordinary little machine... I tried, but it is pretty much impossible for me to sew up the inside of a long tube as narrow as this one.. I settled for sewing the elastic to the side seam allowance.  Has almost the same finished effect, really... as well as being my only option.
Oh, of course the final step is the lower hem, but I didn't take a photo of this, after those gussets a simple hem is kinda humdrum...!
Et voila, my first pair of gloves!
Hehe, so pleased with myself that this "muslin" turned out OK and I will undoubtably wear them once in a while.
Now will I cut up my suede skirt to make some gloves using this pattern?  I might, but I'm going to take a short break to do some regular clothes sewing first, start working on those ten stash-busting garments, and I will take out my old leather gloves and carefully size them up against these new stretch fabric ones before taking the next step.
Following is the review I submitted for this pattern:

Pattern Description:
Package includes patterns and instructions to make nine pairs of unlined gloves.  Each view is available is size small, medium or large.  Variations include contrast applique, contrast lined gauntlet, contrast tabs and covered buttons. 
Pattern Sizing:
Allegedly small (18cm), medium (20cm) and large (23cm).
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you had finished sewing it?
I made view A, and yes
Were the instructions easy to follow?
The instructions are straightforward, but making gloves is not really easy...
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like that it is a well drafted pattern, the pieces went together very well and fitted together perfectly. 
What I didn't like; well, what do those measurements, small, medium and large actually mean?  There is not a clue on the pattern instructions as to what part of your hand you should measure to find out which size you should be looking for!
Also, in spite of saying that the gloves come in three sizes, they actually do not!  The pattern is really only in one size.  The different "sizes" are just simple lengthening of the arm tubes and gauntlets, which is an obvious adjustment anyone could make without needing a pattern to do so... there are no gradings on the pattern pieces to allow for different sized hands.  If you had particularly long or short fingers you could probably make this adjustment yourself without too much trouble, but I think adjusting for a wider hand would be a lot trickier.
I guess this is why a stretch fabric is recommended!
But ultimately my first attempt at gloves fit alright, so I must have an "average" hand... thankfully.
Fabric Used:
Stretch cotton jersey
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I originally bought this pattern because I had seen beautifully coloured gloves in runway shows that were unavailable in the shops, and because I wanted a new challenge.  Then an old suede skirt I had got a bit stretched-out in places and I thought I would cut it up to make some gloves for myself...  these jersey gloves are my "muslin", or trying out the pattern for the first time.  I would still like to use this pattern to make gloves from my suede skirt, but I'm unsure how the un-stretchy suede will go with this stretch fabric pattern.  I'm going to think about it before I cut up my suede skirt, for sure!
Regardless of whether I use the suede or a different fabric, I'm sure I will use this pattern again.
I recommend this pattern for advanced seamstresses who are looking for a new challenge.
Making gloves is not for the faint-hearted, and is a fiddly process.  But once you get the hang of those tiny seams and fiddly little gussets it is a quick project.  I'm not crazy about all nine of the variations of this pattern, but some of them are really beautiful and unlike anything I've seen in the shops here, so I'm excited I can add something different to my wardrobe like this!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gloves: fingers!

The tops of the fingers:
The next step in the glove making process is to stitch across the tops of each finger-tip.  This is a tiny little seam, but still pretty vital... so I basted all of these before sewing them on the machine.  Partly because as I mentioned before, my machine doesn't behave well with tiny little seams, and I feel I have a lot more control with hand-stitching.  In fact, the next time I do this I will probably stick with the precision of a hand-stitched seam and forgo the machine stitching for this bit!
I only have here a photo of the fingertips pinned together ready for sewing and didn't take any "after stitching" pictures...  that's me getting caught up in the trance of the sewing process, sorry!
The outside seam of the little finger is sewn down to the base at this point, but this is the only finger seam sewn in such a simple way...!

The gussets:
Now is the time to worry about those funny little gussets... as I said before I left cutting these out until I needed each one.  So, for example, I started with gusset D (out of D, E, and F for the three different finger "valleys") and cut out just the usual mirror image two of these and sewed these two gussets completely into their correct and final position on the glove before I even looked at gusset E.  I'm really glad I did this, because it could be sooooo easy to mix them up... even when you only have two of them!
The V seam in the middle is sewn right sides together on each one...
And then they are inserted into the appropriate part of the finger...
I'm not going to whitewash this.  This part is tricky and you have to pay close attention to make sure you are pinning the correct edges together.  Sewing these seams is fiddly.  Not trying to put anyone off, but just being honest here...  To sew these seams I started at the base of each finger "valley" at the V seam on each gusset and sewed out from there to end up at the finger tip.  This was a good way of controlling the placement of the gusset properly.  Plus to sew these seams I used a tip I had picked up in a Threads article once upon a time (I have no memory of the specific article, but it was a good tip I filed away mentally for situations like this):
Rather than commencing each seam with a few reverse stitches to secure the thread end like you would do normally, start sewing the seam from the beginning point (ie, right at the base of the V seam, and at the very apex of the finger "valley") and work a few stitches with the machine stitch length set to 1mm.  
When a few millimetres has been worked in this way, change the stitch length back to 2mm, which is the usual stitch length for most regular sewing and complete the seam up until the last little bit, about 3-4mm from the edge.  Change the stitch length back to 1mm for that last little bit.
This is a great technique and stood me in good stead here.  It results in a smooth even straight seam and avoids the risk of fabric-chewing that can occasionally be a problem with reverse stitching.  Also, in my experience, reverse stitching is a little less controlled that forward stitching and sometimes I've been frustrated with the fabric moving sideways a little when I try to use it... this problem is only going to be amplified when you are working with tiny precision seams like this, and anything you can do to eliminate the risk of wonky seams here is going to pay off, big time.  So I was really glad of this tip.
Despite it being fiddly sewing, I am the obsessive personality type that enjoys this sort of precision sewing and thrives on getting it all in as neatly and as perfectly as possible, so I really liked the challenge of this bit.  Plus I am pretty happy with how they turned out!
Tomorrow; finishing off

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gloves: cutting out, seams, and putting in the thumbs

Cutting out:
It's probably not necessary for me to go into a lot of detail here about how to cut out pattern pieces, it is pretty straightforward and the same as any other dressmaking pattern, but with a few little reminders...  
I think a very important thing to remember when cutting out glove pattern pieces is that you will be sewing 3mm seams.  These are tiny little seam allowances here... so if you are like me, and as a time saving exercise mark your marking points with a little snip into the seam allowance then you will have to re-think this one.  I went back to the old ways that my mother taught me, and earmarked those little triangles by snipping them out... so they are little points sticking outside the seam allowance like a tiny shark fin on a smooth sea.  I was pretty pleased with myself for remembering to do this... and didn't just steamroller in and snip them in like normal!

Also, remember those wince-y little gusset pieces? well I just knew they would get all mixed up as the differences between the three pieces are extremely subtle, so I left cutting them out until I was actually using that particular gusset piece right there and then.  When working with teensy little fiddly pieces I find this approach to be far less stressful.
So leave them be, for the time being...

The first step is to stay stitch down around the bottom of the finger bits, and I was lazy here and just used the thread that was already on the needle which happened to be black.  Plus I wanted it to stand out for the photo here, so we could see it... but later on I heartily wished I had used matching thread.  The black does show through a tiny bit.  I regret this.  Important tip; despite that you are treating this as a muslin, if, like me, you entertain a tiny hope that these gloves will be wonderful enough to live permanently in your wardrobe...  treat them with the same respect you would if using your final fashion fabric; use matching thread!
The next step is to cut down each finger "valley"
And next, (on my particular glove choice) I topstitched in place those three short slanted rows across the back of each hand.  Yes, I remembered to use matching thread here.  I just love this type of stitching that is mimicking the delicate tendons on the backs of one's hands, I think it is a charming feature that looks prettily old fashioned and sweet.

The seam allowance on my pattern is given as 3mm.  I decided to be super accurate and use my fading pen (still got it from my quilting days) and draw in the seam allowance for me to sew over.  Two reasons for this: a 3mm seam allowance is too tiny to be even marked on my old machine; also a 3mm seam is not one I ever use so I am unfamiliar with it and didn't trust my eye to gauge it.
The fabric I am using is a type that my machine doesn't particularly like and traditionally likes to chew up, particularly when I am asking it to start sewing a tiny little seam from the edge of the fabric... so I sewed most of the seams starting in the middle and ending up on the edge of the fabric.  This approach works well and I don't run the risk of a chewed up edge.  My machine doesn't have the same problem with the end edge of a seam...  (note to self; should have used matching thread... but at least you can see what I'm talking about here)

The thumb:
So, once I had finished sewing the thumb seam I turned it right side out for a quick visual check.. and see how it has a rather horrible pimply little bump sticking out at the folded corner on the right?
Went back and resewed the end to be more tapered and dart-like for a smoother non-bumpy finish on the outside...
Much better, yes?
I'm all thumbs...
Next step: I inserted those thumb pieces in to the corresponding thumb hole in the main glove pieces, matching up the tiny shark fins.  I pinned and basted this bit quite carefully as I was anticipating it to be quite tricky, but it turned out to be surprisingly straightforward and not even particularly fiddly.  

And I'm not sure I would even bother basting this bit next time.  Apart from the problem with not using matching thread (grrrr... cross with myself) on the outside I can see some of the basting stitches interfering with and marring the perfectly even stitches of the machine stitched seam  (see below).  It's not super obvious, but these tiny imperfections bother me a bit

A fitting aspect of this thumb that concerns me a trifle is that it extends out much further into the main glove area than I anticipated.  Perhaps next time I will make the thumb hole a bit smaller, and the thumb piece a tiny bit shorter...?
What do you think?  Do you think the seam should be closer to the base of the thumb?

Tomorrow; fingers!