Sunday, October 30, 2011

Harvey Two-Face

So, we don't do Halloween here in Australia.  
But in the last few years; each year it seems my children are attending parties that have a Halloween theme.  Different from how it is in other countries; just invited kids together on the one premises, and no door-knocking and begging the neighbours for food, thank goodness.   This kind of Halloween is acceptable to me.
But still requiring a costume.
So true to form Tim informs me on Friday (the day before the party) that he wants to go as Harvey Two-Face, the character from Batman who has one half of his body all acid-burnt and crazy and evil, whilst the other half is a neat, respectable looking business man.  Can I make a half-and-half suit and shirt set fitting the brief in, like, 24 hours??  
Hehehe; funny.  Oh.  You're serious?  Oh, well, no! sorry.  Superpowers, I have not....  But I could possibly divide up two old suits and shirts and splice them together....?  So it was off to the op-shop.  Naturally, Friday was a public holiday in Perth... oh, did you know, we've had a VIP in town??  Yeees, so almost everything was shut, but a bit of phoning around informed us that the op-shops in the CBD were open that day.  So in we went.  Entering Good Sammy's I immediately scanned the clientele; hoping against hope to catch sight of Her Majesty... maybe checking out the hat and bag sections? ... but  (sigh) she must have already been in and cleaned up before us because there wasn't much of a selection.  
But we did manage to score some rather paltry bits and pieces.
Bit of butchering and slashing and fudging together later...
It was all a bit mashed together; of course nothing slotted together easily and needless to say there are no HongKong finishes!, and I couldn't help thinking if only I had had a bit more time and if Spotlight had been open I felt could have had some fun and done something really wild and funky with the "evil" side, but we did the best we could with limited time and resources.  And I was pretty chuffed that he got the Best Costume award!!
Later edit; yup, he did put horrible blotchy red and pink make-up on the evil half of his face later on...  so dya reckon he is sufficiently supervillain-ous?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wave-y welts; a how-to

Some mistakenly thought my wave-y welts were ric-rac; well they're not!  I made them myself!... although if you do have access to such a thing as giant ric-rac (I have never come across any such thing! but then Perth is a small place) then I suppose you could use it for these welts if you want...   As it happens I did take a few photos during the process of making these... partly so I could have a record myself of how I did it since I was doing this on the fly, but also  just in case anyone was interested in making their own shaped welts for a pocket... and some were, so thank you so much for asking!!   :D  
I had laid down my hand and drawn around it to get a pocket piece; and based the length of my welt on the length of the opening edge of this piece... and then drew out the shape I wanted for my welts on paper... this is a sine wave...  (that's my geeky side coming out for you there, yup, I am a fully paid up member of nerds anonymous) Note; that although my shape is a sinuous curve; the four outermost corners of the design still form an exact rectangle...  having this will make it easier!  I also cut out four large-enough rectangles of my fabric and applied iron-on interfacing to two of them.
Draw the design onto the interfaced piece, do the second one as a mirror image.  Pin an interfaced piece to a non-interfaced piece, right sides together, and sew as slowly and as accurately as possible along your marked curves.
Trim and clip along the curved edges and turn right side out.  Press; with your finger inside to ease out those curves to sit smooth and even.  Voila; welts!  Well; potential welts... hehe, hang in there  :)
Now I tried on my dress and pinned the welts onto the outside of my dress where I wanted them to sit; so they were in a comfortable position for my hands.  This is an individual thing... for me it is at about hip-bone height, but it is also a toss-up as to where you want the welts to sit aesthetically, to be in a visually good spot on the dress.  I find a comfortable spot for my hands is quite wide-set, but I still wanted for both the welts to be quite visible at the same time from the front view of the dress...
Mark the corner points of the welt design onto your dress with pins, and check to make sure that your two marked rectangles (which are your welt positions) have the exact same dimensions as each other, and as your paper piece... also that your two welt positions are exactly equal distance from the side seams, have the same "angle" and are exactly level to each other on your dress (sorry if I am stating the obvious, but it is best to say it than not...they are a pretty stand-out feature and wouldn't it be awful if after all your hard work one was "off'!)  I reckon it is also a good idea to double check on the inside, where it is easier to tell inaccuracies since the visual distraction of the actual welt is not there.
Carefully snip (the dress fabric only; be careful not to snip into your welt!) down the middle line of the marked rectangle, and in shallow angles  out to the corner points.  The shallowness of the angle cuts to the corners should be dictated by whether of not you have a sharp inner curve of the welt at the corner; cut the corner angle accordingly to be hidden by this...  Join one pocket piece to the inner cut edge of the slit. I joined mine in a French seam, but that is only because I am sometimes obsessive about raw edges.... this is not strictly necessary... then pin the inner edge of this seam to the underside of the welt.
Now for the other pocket piece; at this point I realised it needed an "extension" for it to fit properly inside the welt and onto the the other pocket piece, so I cut a rectangle of fabric for the second pocket piece and joined them in a French seam, then laid down the extended pocket piece onto the first pocket piece, aligning those French seams and the raw pocket edges...  
Turn in a narrow fold on the other long cut edge of the slit, and press.
Lay the extension on the second pocket piece over this fold, to be nice and flat and even; and pin the top single layer of that new fold together with the extension piece of the pocket... sew together in the ditch of the pressed fold.
I trimmed down that long free edge of the extension piece and tucked in the raw edge and folded the extension piece over and enclosing this seam allowance, and pressed and topstitched it down in the ditch of the previous seam, thus enclosing all raw edges.  Yeah, basically a flat-felled seam...  :)
Finally laid those two pocket pieces together, pinned and sewed together around the long curved edge.
On the outside; turned under the small snipped triangular top and bottom edges, and pinned and finger pressed them into place...
On the inside; carefully transferred the pins to the finger-pressed folds and stitched the short raw triangular ends to the welt allowances, keeping everything else free.
On the inside; invisibly fell-stitch the inner (unextended) pocket piece to the inside of the welt piece
On the outside, and using matching thread, invisibly fell-stitch the outer edge of the welt to the dress.
On the inside, trim the welt edges even with the pocket seam allowances, and enclose the seam in a HongKong seam.  Not essential, but it does look so much nicer and well finished, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wave-y orange welts

I made a little sundress.
First impressions are that this is just a very plain little thing with minimal detailing.  Note ... first impressions.   The apparent plain-ness is intentional because I wanted for the one and only detail to stand out big-time; those wave-y pocket welts (my own added feature), which took a little bit of working out and of which I am inordinately proud.  Why? well they are not just decorative, but functional; and happily situated over satisfyingly HUGE pockets. 
I have to say, one of the (many) reasons I like to sew for myself is so that I can add pockets to things... silly?  maybe, but a practical sort of silly, which is OK in my book.
I'm very pleased with how those wave-y welts turned out.  I was directly inspired by this Christopher Kane dress (at right) with those wonderfully wave-y details.  The pocket welts and collar on this dress are heat-sealed plastic filled with gel of a satisfyingly toxic shade of nuclear-waste green.  Love it!  However since gel-filled plastic is currently beyond the capabilities of my little sewing room I just tried to reproduce the look in fabric.
The dress is all made using leftover fabric scraps, and the wave-y welts were basically me experimenting and playing about which happily worked out just how I'd hoped.  The dress fabric is sea-foam green linen, the leftover bit from the shirt I made for my husband here.  I was sooo glad there was a little bit of leftover, since I had been such a good wife-y, making him a shirt and all.  I thought I deserved to keep this little bit for my own devious purposes, mwahaha.  And the pocket welts are of the leftover fabric from my burnt orange skirt, here.  The facings and pocket linings are of baby blue cotton, a biggish piece from my stash that is not a colour beloved by nor even suited to anyone in my family; but has still been incredibly useful.  It is getting eaten away slowly but surely for little things like this...

Later edit: I wrote a how-to on making those wave-y welt pockets here.  Thank you for showing an interest!

Dress; based on Burda 8511, sea-foam green linen with burnt orange raw silk pocket welts
Shoes; Country Road

The dress is loosely based on an old favourite Burda 8511, and the pockets and welts are my own added feature.  This dress pattern is a very useful one, that I have used several times, but it has a fairly form-fitting silhouette that cannot accommodate pockets.  So I flared out the skirt part of the dress slightly, so that shoving my hands down deep into those pockets is both possible and comfortable.  Just this small detail alone is deeply satisfying...  I also altered the depth and length of the back darts to make the dress a more flattering fit to my shape.  Namely, because I have a slight sway-back, I generally make the back darts deeper and lower, and because I also have a narrow torso I take in the side seams in the upper torso region as well.  These are my standard fitting alterations for this pattern.
All the internal raw edges are finished with HongKong seaming and the lower hem is finished with a wider cut strip of bias.  Little secret; that bias hem strip is not just there as a quality dressmaking finish, but pretty well necessary in this case... This dress was cut from such a small scrap, the amount of actual dress fabric in that hem is about 5mm!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cat's eyes

(a mixture of BYS Mint Condition and Bright Light)
As soon as the weather warms up enough to bare the ol' tootsies I like to get some funky nail varnish on to my toenails.  The weirder and wilder the better.
This week I wanted something toxic.  Something urban and nuclear-waste.  Something neon and horrifically bad taste.  So I was sitting outside and painting this on when I was joined by a friendly and furry lovely in the mood for companionship.  She came purring over and flopped down beside me and as she blinked lazily at me it struck me that the crazy shade of my nail varnish exactly matched the golden-green luminosity of her eyes, how they appeared bathed in the reflected glow of warm sunlight off the bright new grass...  at once the colour became less toxic to my eyes and suddenly one that was rather lovely, natural and beautiful.  
... is there no such thing as an "un-natural" shade?

the winner is...

Thank you so much to all those who entered the giveaway and left such nice comments about my L(ong)BD.  Your kind words never fail to put a smile on my face and make my day!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Turning old jeans into a skirt...

...  I decided it was high time for another refashion since I still have a small mountain of perfectly good fabric in the form of old clothing sitting in my stash.  eep!  Do you remember these jeans?   They had got a bit saggy and baggy about the crotch and seat area, thanks to me using almost-stretchless fabric.  Thus I learnt jeans really are so much better with a bit of stretch in them... anyhoo so I could barely stand to see myself in them as jeans anymore but the corduroy was still in pretty good knick overall, and I still absolutely looooove the colour.  It's the perfect "white" for me, a sort of warm shade of grey-white that I love.  Oyster white, to get all referentially descriptive, if you like that sort of thing.  Yeah, I do too  :)
So.  I've seen dozens of jeans-to-skirt refashions on the net but none of them have ever ever appealed to me.  Why?  People can't get past dealing with that big curved crotch seam, and will just leave it there, sew it down boom onto the front of their new skirt as is, and I just can't bear that look.  When I do a refashion I want it to actually look like a skirt, thanks, and not for people to look at it and go, "oh, she obviously converted her old jeans into a skirt, yeah.  Hmmm.  Okaaaaay...  No attempt to do anything at all about that crotch seam....  And what about the rest of the fabric from the legs?  Why not make use of that somehow?"
So I gave it some thought and came up with this refashion (details below), that actually used up nearly all of the fabric from my old jeans.  The whole top bit, with the waistband, fly, side pockets, coin pocket and rear patch pockets is still there completely intact too.  I think it ended up looking quite fun and flippy, and almost sporty too, don't you?

Skirt; my own design, a refashion of an old pair of off-white corduroy jeans (originally made by me too, using Burda 7863 here)
Blouse; Butterick 4985, ivory eyelet cheesecloth with lace trim
Cardigan; Country Road
Scarf; Missoni
Shoes; Bronx, from Zomp shoes
It was a pretty simple refashion.... firstly I cut off the top bit, and unpicked the curved part of that offending crotch seam.  
Pinned and resewed centre front and centre back respectively into a straight front and back seam... aaah; already, things are looking a lot more skirt-like here, right?   I also re-double-topstitched that centre back seam down again to match how it was originally...
Now for the legs bit...
Measuring and allowing for an equal depth hem cut each two leg pieces in almost-half horizontally.  
I wanted to keep the original hem down at the bottom of the legs intact, and so just unpicked a small area of hem near the outside leg seam... so I could unpick that long outside leg seam.  I chose the outside leg seam for unpicking like this since I had originally double-topstitched the inside leg seam down, and so the outer leg seam was a far easier option here...!!  And those double topstitched seams makes a nice random feature on the final skirt too.This gave me four largish pieces of leg, in pairs of two mirror images.  I used the lower leg pieces (with the hem mostly intact) for the skirt front and the upper leg pieces (which as yet have no hem) for the skirt back, and checking to make sure the nap of the corduroy is all the same way as each other and the top of the skirt, sewed up the side seams, and centre front and back seams.
The  next step was to arrange the excess fabric in the lower skirt piece into folds so that it fitted the upper skirt piece.  This was just a matter of measuring and arranging the folds to be as near as perfect mirror images of each other, front and back, and checking every now and again to see that it was fitting into the top section.  
Once the folds were all evenly in place I basted them all and then sewed the skirt top and skirt bottom together.  I top-stitched each fold down in place by about 5cm vertically, some single- and some of them double-topstitching.  Then hemmed the skirt back, to match the hem of the skirt front (which is already in place, and only required the centre front bit of the hem to be sewn into place...)
Voila!  A new skirt, and with very little waste!  The only waste fabric was from the crotch area, plus I ended up shaving a few inches off the top of the lower skirt section also to get a length that pleased me.  Note, I took length off the top of the skirt, not the bottom, since I was keeping that existing lower hem in place.  When re-fashioning a garment it is well worth incorporating those existing hems into your new garment somehow, since years of washing and wearing creates a permanent and very visible line of wear into the fabric, and a fold that will never ever iron out ... thus removing length from that top area (that will just be disappearing into the joining seam anyway) is definitely the way to go here.
Better, yes?