Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some dyeing...

My dear friend C gave me a whole bunch of fabric last night, following a major clean-out of her late mother's house.  Some of it is very nice, lots of it is... er, very green.  I am very grateful, however mindful of the fact that a person's wardrobe can contain limited amounts of bright green.  
So this was today's activities...
Dyeing the paler green was my main aim, and it got boiled for the requisite hour.  I love the dirty khaki brown it has become, and even though I originally envisioned a Pattern Magic 2 thing I am now leaning towards a skirt.  The two darker greens were tossed in the leftovers, just because I thought "why not?".  They are less "St Patricks Day" now, and more "wine bottle", so a bit better.  I might do them over again, with a fresh batch of dye.  Another reason they didn't "take" as well is probably that they are mostly cotton.

At the same time, I noticed my T-shirt that I boiled in turmeric eighteen months ago had gone very pale.  Not enough salt?  So it enjoyed a re-spicing up.  Literally.  This time half a cup of salt went in, plus 2tsp turmeric.  We'll see how the colour holds up this time...

And in case you are wondering, that top pot is only used for dyeing.... I have no intentions of poisoning my family's soup!

Monday, May 30, 2011

It was inevitable...

... and was simply a matter of when my self-discipline would falter.  I'm classifying this as a belated Mother's Day present to myself.
Actually, I'm supremely excited about this second instalment in the Pattern Magic series by Tomoko Nakamichi, why? (well apart from the obvious one that the designs are unique, interesting, beautiful and magical!) but also partly because the majority of the projects are shirts.  Something of which I am somewhat short in the handmade department.  And such wondrous sculptural projects, the like of which I have never come across before; exercises on wearing a balloon, wearing a circle, wearing a square and wearing a triangle in one section; not to mention another very enticing section, the "vanishing" features.  Some of which I am giving you a little taster here;
the vanishing tie;
the vanishing scarf;
and the vanishing lapel;
another section deals with cowl experimentation;
I barely know which wonderful design to select first...  and yes, in case you are wondering, I think having the English translation is going to make things a lot easier.  Obviously, for a start one can understand the what-goes-where, which helps.  Additionally though, most of the designs come with a brief note written by the designer, touching on her thoughts and inspirations behind these unique design, and these are a real pleasure to be able to read.  These little snippets are sometimes purely informative, sometimes lyrical, sometimes take an unexpectedly poetic turn-about in a few short words.  Like a haiku.  For example: "I increased the depth of the shadows by rotating the fabric and then flipping it over like the flip turn of swimmers in a pool"
Swimmers flipping in pools; a lovely visual moment with which to finish, yes?  I can't wait to get started...
(all pictures from Pattern Magic 2, by Tomoko Nakamichi)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pattern Magic, revisited

This is my second attempt at this pattern; the design from page 10 of Pattern Magic by Tomoko Nakamichi; my first was here.  I loved the design, but unfortunately that first dress was kinda disastrous.  Firstly, I didn't love the fabric I had used, which was a super-cheapy thick-ish polyester selected for its colour only from the remnants table.  On top of the doubtful quality of the fabric and the fact that it didn't drape very well, my finishing off of that dress was of equally doubtful quality...  I didn't have enough of the blue to cut facings, and used instead a tobacco coloured fabric, a too-thin and also-nasty scrap of polyester.  And I didn't fit the dress properly to myself, and allowed too much seam allowance around the armscye, but sewed a normal width seam allowance, resulting that the dress dug into my armpits in a painful and irritating way, and to unpick the stitching plus understitching around the armscye just seemed all too difficult, since I had sewn them up scrupulously well, and combined with the nasty fabric quality... (deep breath)  I guess in hindsight I was treating the dress like a muslin, which is how it turned out as I wore it precisely two times.  I know, I'm embarrassed by my wastefulness, too...  I can only hope that someone at the Salvos with smaller arms than me saw something good in that thing...
Enough with the saga of sewing failure...
The good news is that I still loved the design enough to really want to have a go at a better one, using nice fabric.  Et voila!

side views (one is more interesting than the other...)

Dress; drafted from the Japanese pattern book Pattern Magic by Tomoko Nakamichi, in slightly nubbly, charcoal-marle polyester/wool suiting
Petticoat; (honestly can't really remember the pattern I used for this), black satin, another picture here
Top and tights; Metalicus
Boots; Andrea and Joen, from Uggies in Dunsborough

back view

Dressmaking details:
There is only one front piece and one back piece, but the shape of the pieces is such that the bodice area is on-grain, but the skirt section is on the bias.  Resulting in that lovely ripply drape. 
This time I carefully measured the bodice area, armscye and the hip area against an old favourite Burda 8511; and made the necessary fitting adjustments to the armscye.  The fabric is a rather nice thin and very drape-y, but still a bit nubbly wool/polyester mix suiting fabric in charcoal marle.  For the cord casing around the "hole" I made bias tape from the same fabric.  The cord is a 120cm brown/black bootlace.
I cut the facing pieces from the same fabric so that the fabric selvedge edge forms the lower edge of the facing.  These pieces are not interfaced; I think the fact they are cut on the cross-grain, while the bodice is on-grain will provide enough stability to this area, and I love the softness of the finished bodice.  The neckline and armscyes are under-stitched and not topstitched.  The other raw edges inside the dress are overlocked to finish, and the hem is hand-stitched.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Flares in Plum

Hot off the press... my new flared jeans for winter, and for Joy's Bell-Bottom challenge!
I adore flares, after half a lifetime of trial and error I have finally decided they could be the most flattering jeans shape for my particular body type.  Sure, I wear other kinds of jeans as the mood takes me but really the shape of flares always just pleases me immensely.  I think the flare from knee down provides a nice counterpoint to the curve of a lady's hips above.  Skinnies look wonderful on the very slim hipped, and if a girl is in that lucky category then yay! for skinnies.  Go for it!  But I reckon for me with wider hips, or child-bearing hips as my grandmother referred to them; then the look of the skinny leg from those hips tapering down into petite little ankles is perhaps not the most flattering silhouette for my body type.  When I do wear my skinnies I usually try to counteract that tapering effect by wearing them with biker boots to provide some visual weight for the lower half of my legs... as here.
But getting off track, my new flares, groovy, no?  I already had this grape coloured stretch denim planned for some new winter jeans when I read about Joy's challenge, and instantly knew nothing could be groovier nor more age of Aquarius than the colour purple.  Even the word "purple" brings to mind decadence, pimp-chic and naughty avant garde movies from the seventies, yes?  Do you recall Alvin Purple, fellow Aussies?  I was too young to ever be allowed to watch this, hehe.  I imagine though that some of the (dressed) ladies might have worn pants such as these...?

Jeans; Burda 7863 with modifications, purple stretch denim, see my review of this pattern here
Top; Metalicus
Cardigan; Country Road
Scarf; alta, a gift from Cassie
Shoes; Sandler, from an op shop
Dressmaking details:
I used my old favourite Burda 7863, and cut the legs to taper out from knee level down to the ankles by about 5cm each edge, resulting in an extra 20cm flare on each ankle.  I am happy with this amount of flare, although I can see I could have gone more... it becomes an exercise in how much flare is possible without making the outward curve of the pants leg too sudden.
I put in my now standard modifications of a zip placket and a coin pocket, and left off the pocket flaps.  
I've seen some very interesting and unusual pocket stitchings out there, I usually choose something simple and abstract... below was my effort this time:
Another modification with regard to this pattern; after studying RTW jeans and ever since my first pair of jeans from this pattern I have used a different method of construction to that outlined in the pattern... as follows:
(after doing the yoke, both sets of pockets and all topstitching therein...)
Sew the inside leg seam first, and topstitch the seam allowance down to the front with a double row of topstitching.
Sew the front pants legs together from the bottom of the zip opening, and around the back legs for about 20cm, no more.
Then sew the outside leg seam of each leg.  Topstitch the seam allowance down onto the pants back with a single row of topstitching down to the lower level of the pocket edge.
This order of construction gives the same look as RTW jeans.
At the time of purchasing the fabric I was encouraged by one of the shop ladies to buy some proper top-stitching thread to finish off my purple jeans and I thought this would be a good idea.  While I was browsing the colour range she helpfully suggested baby pink! can you imagine; quelle horreur!  I politely declined the pink... and eventually chose this lovely strong mustard/rusty colour.  I thought this would be pretty good-looking against the richness of the plum. But the top-stitching thread turned out to be a nightmare... my poor old machine hated it with a passion and threw major wobbly fits during the most visible and important of the topstitching moments.  Yikes!!  It particularly hated going through the thickest parts, such as the belt loops.  A close inspection of my jeans would reveal that these parts are sewn on with ordinary black thread, and I merely embroidered the top-stitching thread over the top in back stitch, to mimic the look of topstitching.  It was either that or break more needles, and lead to my incarceration in a lunatic asylum...  I broke my last denim needle doing the waistband topstitching, and then two more ordinary needles (well, it was late at night and I was at that crazy determined stage where I was going to finish those jeans then and there no matter how many needles it took, or die in the attempt...)
Re the Burda waistband technique, and since I have mentioned this on a few other blogs, I will try to illustrate here how I think the Burda method of attaching waistbands is so useful for getting a good fit ...
Burda usually attaches their left and right waistbands as separate pieces to each pants side, and then to sew up the centre back seam including the waistband in one fell swoop after fitting.  I think this makes a superb method of getting a really good fit on your pants, especially if like me you have a slight sway back combined with wide hips, and the back of even the best fitting RTW pants nearly always require taking at the back of the waist.  This is a picture of the centre back seam of these pants with the (black) stitching line taking in the centre back of the pants and the centre back of the waistband all in one clean seam.  
The dark blue/grey linen at the left of picture is my waistband facing, which I use here as well as for the pocket piece to reduce fabric bulk.  The centre back seam on this facing is angled out to mirror the angle of the seam on the waistband, so it will fold down to the inside smoothly.  The pin in the picture is marking the seamline as it is in the pattern, and if I had sewed the back seam here, and then put on a straight one-piece waistband as done in other pants patterns I would end up with a floppy pokey-outy waistband hanging away from the small of my back, grrr.  So to have the waistband in two halves like this, and to sew a fitted angled seam all in one, makes for a really GREAT fit.  Below is a picture of the inside of a pair of my husband's good suit pants, showing that this one-seam/two-piece waistband method of construction is also used in high quality menswear.  It additionally means if a person loses or gains weight, that centre back seam can be adjusted relatively easily without having to reconstruct the waistband...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Turquoise pencil skirt; 6 different ways

These posts are a guilty pleasure to me; it's such fun to play around in my own closet and dream up a whole lot of new ways in which I could possibly wear an old favourite to suit a variety of situations... for this one I chose my turquoise pencil skirt, made from a real oldie pattern from the late seventies, Vogue 1023.  So old that my mother originally bought this pattern to make my concert band performance skirt, for when I was in high school, lol!  I can't believe I'm even owning up to that here... what's that old saying about, if you remember it the first time around then you're too old for it the second time around, or some such rubbish?  Obviously I'm ignoring that advice.  And anyway, Mum made the ankle-length version for me back then...
I made this version of the skirt about eighteen months ago now, details are here, as part of my then plan to inject Colour! into my wardrobe and life.  The colour has proved a slight challenge sometimes to this diehard neutral lover, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it turn out very useful, and worked really well with lights and light neutrals, and also with brights.  Not so good with darks and drabs, but meh... still been a great cheerful little skirt to have in a fab colour.
So here we go...
At left, on a summery day, going casual and primary-colourful; and more business-like at right, being a demure little pencil skirt it can suitably and happily go to the office worn with a tucked-in buttoned-up striped shirt
At left; contrasting that turquoise with its colour wheel opposite, apricot and orange; and at right, a more monotonal look
When the weather turns a bit colder the bold colour stands up to a bit of sharp contrast... at left, I am currently loving the slightly strange juxtaposition of blood red and turquoise; and at right, the turquoise manages to transform to beautifully winter-y when worn with winter white and strong chocolate brown accessories.
What am I wearing today?  Well, the richness of ruby red combined with the jolt of turquoise just above is such an unexpected and therefore striking colour combination; I just love it!  This is the outfit I am wearing today.  And although you probably can't see it in the photo, my toenails exactly match my skirt.  This minor detail pleases me...!  
Which look here is your preference?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A navy corduroy jacket, and a Babar jumper

Today I bring two flashbacks; two, because I don't have very good photos of either one to warrant an individual post, and because I am trying to whizz through these old projects a little faster than I have been up until now... These items are both things I made for Tim when he was about two.
The first is a little navy blue corduroy biker-styled jacket that zipped up the front (biker-styled... for a two year old, lol!), which I toddler-ised by using contrasting red for the collar and trimmings, the pattern from a Topkids magazine.  Even though Tim wore it a lot, this is the best photo I have of it...
And the second is a little jumper that I knitted using a pattern from a Women's Weekly magazine.  Babar is embroidered on the front over the knitting stitches.  He wore this a lot... and I have heaps of photos of him wearing this, but these are the only ones even vaguely showing off that embroidery!  The lower picture, taken at Lake Mountain in Victoria, is the first time these sandgropers had ever ever seen snow in our lives!  We made a little snowman!
(translation: sandgropers = Western Australians)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oo la la

I've made a new dress for winter!
This fabric, a sort of very roughly spun and woven silk, with some very stiffish almost stick-like pieces woven into it, was one of my Christmas presents; that I bought so the children could have some things to give me; hehe, I know, so thoughtful of me...  I always wanted to make some sort of unadorned sheath dress with it, something that was plain-ish, yet still chic and polished, that could be dressed up or down to suit a multitude of "looks".  And in an ideal world, pockets would be in there too somehow.  But how to incorporate pockets into a sheath dress?   It is almost impossible, without resorting to the ol' patch pockets, which are not very chic and not a very polished look.  I wanted "polished", in case if I so desired I just could wear my dress to semi-formal do-es.  Occasionally, I do so desire.  So when I saw this pattern, dress 128 from the 08/2009 Burdastyle magazine I realised that while the dress did appear quite fitted and sheath-like, the pleated fullness at the front of the skirt meant that inseam side pockets were a distinct possibility.  So I tried out putting some in, and they worked out pretty good, imo.  Yes! (self high five)  Is that a case of having my cake and eating it too, or what?!
Apart from the inseam pockets, I made a few other small modifications.  Firstly, I have a slight pet aversion to dresses that have a waist seam on the front and not on the back.  Just privately, it bothers my pernickety need for order and continuity... so I cut the back pieces to have a corresponding waist seam at the back, corresponding to fit with the front waist seam.  This also enabled me to make a slight sway back adjustment easily, a double win.
Also, my dress is fully lined with acetate lining fabric, unlike the pattern, which stipulates a bodice lining only.  Why would you have a lined bodice, and not go that small extra step to line the skirt section? Hmmm...  imo, a skirt lining is mandatory in a winter dress, so it doesn't stick to your tights.  For my dress lining pieces, apart from the very top neckline and sleeve bits which are to the pattern, I used mostly the lower portion of an ol' faithful Burda 8511.  So apart from the bust darts at the front, and long double ended body darts at the back, the lining is quite plain.
I also opted to line the sleeves, for extra warmth.  But here I made a small error of misjudgement, although I know that sleeve linings need wearing ease, at this stage I was happily whizzing ahead in my blissful little sewing trance, and didn't incorporate enough into mine.  Agreed, I should know better by now... still, this is only a problem for that one moment in my day when I am trying to zip up the thing at the back, you know when you are twisted in that position with one arm up and one arm down behind your back, trying to hold that back centre seam in place with one hand and grab the zip pull with the other to pull it up?  I'm sure this is one of the main reasons yoga was invented.  I mean, the need to stay limber enough so we can get our back dress zips up by ourselves, naturally... 
The fabric is that sort of silk that frays like a madman, fraying all by itself just seconds after it has been cut. So I edged all the straight raw edges in HongKong seaming, while some of the "hidden" ones up inside the bodice and in the sleeves were just overlocked to finish...  did someone just say "lazy?"  Who, moi?  On the bottom hem, I made a wide strip of bias binding to make a divinely wide hem...  just look at that hem width, and not a raw edge to be seen anywhere.  Couture heaven, no?!

Dress; pattern no 128 Burdastyle magazine 08/2009 with some modifications, silk
Sandals; akiel, from an op shop

Below is my pattern review, if you are interested...

Pattern Description:
This figure-following sheath dress constitutes a tribute to all Paris fashion designers; the bodice remains plain while little waist tucks lend the skirt a refined tulip look  (don't you just love Burdastyle descriptions...!)
Pattern Sizing:
36-44, I sewed a 38, and  graduated the skirt pieces out to 40 from hip height down because I wanted to incorporate inseam side pockets.
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you had finished sewing it?
Were the instructions easy to follow?
very straightforward and easy
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
There's nothing not to like about this pattern!  I made a few slight modifications to suit my personal taste.
Fabric Used:
A roughly spun and woven silk, with acetate lining
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I incorporated inseam side pockets.  The slight flare at the front of the skirt provided by the waist pleats made this an obvious modification, and very easy to do.
I cut the dress back pieces to have a waist seam, corresponding to the waist seam at the front of the dress.  I prefer the continuity of this look, and it also enabled me to make a slight sway back adjustment.
I fully lined the dress, including the skirt and sleeves.  For the dress lining pieces, I used a plain shift dress pattern I already have; which does not have the shaping of the main dress pieces.  For the sleeve linings I used the pattern pieces, although, note to others who plan to do this, be sure allow some wearing ease here!
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I highly recommend this to others!
This is an easy dress pattern with a lovely, flattering and classic shape.

below; side view, with pockets in action...