Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dreaming, of chocolate

Y'know how you see some patterns, and you're like, oh so easy!! but you go ahead and buy or trace-out or copy-as-exactly-as-possible anyway?  
That's how I felt with this Tshirt pattern; top 106 from Burdastyle magazine 06/2011.  I just liked the shape of it, exactly as it appeared in the magazine; the subtle kimono sleeve, the boxy looseness of it.  So I hauled out the ol' tracing stuff and spread out the sheets and traced out this very very basic Tshirt/dress (you can make it a bit longer, and surprise! it is a dress! in true Burda magazine style, they elongate top patterns and give it a different number, making out it is a whole new pattern) even though all the while wondering that there was really nothing to it and maybe I was wasting my time and my tracing plastic.  And my final thought; there really is nothing to it!  Too easy!
However; made up, I am still enamoured of the cute shape and the very easy-to-wear and flattering kimono-sleeve.  I will make this top up again, and properly next time.  Because I admit it, this particular example is far from... well, gorgeous.  To be honest, I think it is soon to become my bed-time attire, ... woooh, such a glamour puss, no?!  
But, here is my reasoning ... remember this sundress? (below right)  It has been a hot weather staple for quite a few years and I have finally bid it adieu.  The zip pull was finally paintless, the straps had come adrift and been reattached with zig-zagging (discreet, but still unacceptably visible upon close inspection) a couple of times each, and the fabric is ... old.  I eventually realised it was not doing me any favours at all...  But I still loooovee this colour, and there was plenty of fabric in the dress.  
The thing with using old fabric for making new clothes is that; well obviously you are using old, and worn, and many times washed fabric, and usually that all shows and not to advantage either!  Old fabric gets thin, stretched and mis-shapen in some parts of a garment and not others, and so has limited application for smart new items.  But I still like to use old textiles as much as possible, saving the planet and so on and so on.  Assuages the guilt of my eco-conscience, if you like.
The neckline of this Tshirt here is slightly higher and not-as-sharply-V as the pattern, and instead of facings for which surprisingly there was not enough fabric, I made bias strips to finish the neckline and sleeve edges.  Since the original dress was cut on the bias, so the Tshirt is too.  And it is a little shorter than the pattern stipulates, again due to fabric shortage.  And even though this is just going to be a jammie top, the shoulder seams are flat-felled and the side seams are French seams.  Well, one may as well practise where one can, right?

Top; Burdastyle magazine 06/2011, 106 modified slightly, chocolate brown bobbled and embroidered cotton, a refashion of a sundress also originally made by me
Trousers; (hmmm, these are getting pretty old too...) self-drafted, based on a pair of old jeans, of white linen, details here

Sunday, November 27, 2011


In the midst of catastrophe; a funny story, this snippet from Saturday's West Australian.  Please enjoy.  It certainly gave me a laugh.  That poor moggy!

In regards to the bushfire; the firefighters saved about 370 homes in the path of the fire.  I was utterly amazed to see on the news the helicopter view of some of these houses; looking like perfect little oases stuck in the midst of acres and acres of grey-white ash with leafless black tree-trunks poking out of the ground all round; absolutely incredible!!  Such a fantastic effort...

In the past nearly-a-week, I've been doing my yearly duty of staying at our beach house, guarding it against the expected hoards of drunken marauding teenage school-leavers.  Well, that is how the media like to portray leavers, anyway... I can only guess whether the extras diverted from the bushfire areas are here, since as usual it is pretty quiet and I've only seen small groups of teenagers sitting about together on the beach, enjoying themselves in a cheerful yet still civilised way.  Honestly, I don't know what all the hysteria about leavers is.  Most of them seem pretty nice kids to me.  Sienna is an absolute magnet on the beach for pats.
On the other hand I am getting rather lonely now.  Sienna is sorta good company, but...
I'm reeeeally looking forward to when the family turns up tomorrow for our "family" part of the holiday.

Dress, modified Burda 8511, with wave-y pocket welts which (oops!) you can't even see here... linen with raw silk pocket welts, details here
Cardigan and hat; Country Road
I'm sorry I've been so bad at replying to comments lately.  The internet is so cut-in-cut-out at the mo, I've thought I was going to grow old and die!!  I keep getting kicked off the internet which is soooo frustrating.  So if my commenting has seemed a little distracted in the last week, then now you know why...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The day of the bushfires

(Wrote all this yesterday, but our internet here is being veeery dodgy at the mo)

Thank you Robyn, for your thoughtful well-wishes; our family and house are safe.  I was a little bit concerned about my parents who are both active in the volunteer rural firefighting community, since I couldn't contact them by phone for over a day.  I found out tonight they are both fine.

 The news about the bushfires has been terrible though.  Overnight, 39 houses in Margaret River and Prevelly have been lost and thousands of acres burnt to the ground.  In small towns like these, that is pretty devastating. The weather conditions over the past two days were high winds and extremely high temperatures, adding up to ideal bushfire conditions.  This weekend is schoolies weekend, and 350 schoolkids bound for Margaret River and Prevelly have been diverted to Dunsborough, our town; and where we have been for the past few days.  There are other people who temporarily evacuated to Dunsborough, who will have found out today whether or not their properties have been lost.
I took this photo while walking on the beach yesterday and obviously at this moment didn't know what was happening.  The good news is that cooler temperatures and a little bit of rain today have helped the firefighters enormously.
And I think everyone is just grateful that there has been no loss of life...

Top; my own design based on top  "a" from Unique Clothes Any Way You Like by Natsuno Hiraiwa, made of scraps of "Smoky" shot cotton, details here
Shorts; Burda 7723, charcoal gabardine, a wardrobe refashion of an old skirt of Cassie's, details here

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hot (pink) pants

G’day, peops!
Remember when I mentioned a piece of hot pink linen that had befriended me in the fabric store and then beseeched me to give it a new home and some purpose in its life?  (ahem) Well I’ve done the right thing by this piece of lolly-bright fabric fabulousness and transformed it into something that I am already excited about wearing a tonne of times this summer!  A bomb of times!  A colour bomb!  A Barbie bomb!  Wait, I doubt if Barbie is considered very cool, or even PC anymore...?  so mebbe scratch that one…
I used Burda 7723, again; my go-to shorts pattern now.  Such a nicely tailored shorts pattern; with a slight flare enough to make them "cute", a wide high waistband that sits securely and firmly at one's true waist, and good sized pockets.  The last feature making it a definite win all by itself...  I also think this shape just really suits my style and my figure too, I think.  In the past I’ve altered this pattern slightly each time I've made it up; to make them more flared, flat-fronted and longer respectively, but this time I made it up just as is.   Oh, except for my usual modification; the addition of a zip placket.  Well, naturally why wouldn’t you put in a zip placket? uses hardly any fabric and you see them in even the cheapest and most badly made RTW shorts so it is completely beyond me why patterns continue to leave this minor, but telling little detail out.  I once did a sort of tutorial on how to add a zip placket to any fly-front pattern, here.
Now just to diverge for a sec into photography territory again, I know lots of other fashionable seamsters aren't interested in the slightest in photography; but I am.  So ...
I first thought of photographing this ensemble against a bright white wall, in the strong midday sunlight; thinking that the intense shades of cobalt blue and hot pink would stand up well to the lighting challenge.  But I was still a bit amazed at the incredibly deep shadows created... also I realised that you couldn't see the shorts properly with the tie thing-y in the front hanging over the front of the shorts.  So I tucked in the top, and moved over to a shady spot.  But the photos I took, even though they don't show the shorts very well, still intrigued me in an artistic sense so I decided to put one in here as well.  And btw; I do not photoshop or alter my photos apart from cropping.  This is how it is!  (although oftentimes I wish my face could always be in shadow like this...)
When you look at pictures of clothes, do you prefer realism; as in showing the dressmaking details as accurately as possible; or do you like to see a bit of artistry in the photography as well?  Me, I know I like a bit of both...  but I've said enough about that in the past so I won't repeat myself.
What aspect of fashion photography do you appreciate the most?

Top; blue "bunches", from Pattern Magic 3, of thin cobalt blue cotton jersey, details here
Shorts; Burda 7723, hot pink linen

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Crescent moon

Now my new little top here is a very quick and easy, yet still interesting design.  And like all the designs from the Pattern Magic series; very very clever too, and another example of a "why hasn't anyone thought of this before" sort of a garment.  This one from Pattern Magic 3, by Tomoko Nakamichi.
The names of the designs are so interesting, are they not?  Some of them are so full of imagery and poetry.  Like this one for instance.  When the garment is laid flat you can see at once the inspiration for its moniker.  Crescent moon.  How clever and beautiful.  Just typical of Japanese design and their artistic sensibility towards shapes and images in nature; a concept I really relate to.
For this I used some more of the leftover jersey scraps from the bundle given to me by my friend C, from her late mother's stash.  I had to cut and join the darker blue fabric to get a piece large enough, but that is OK since it is the bottom layer and the seam just looks like an underarm side seam whilst you are wearing it.  To finish; the raw edges were overlocked, turned under once, and topstitched down from the outside.
I love the way that when you are wearing it, from the front it just looks like you are wearing a rather ordinary cropped little Tshirt, with maybe just the stripe as its lone interesting feature.  However as one turns around, it transpires one is wearing an elegant little draped cape, with a flattering, widely scooped back neckline.
And since capes are "in", albeit for the northern autumn/winter scene right now, I'm serendipitously fashionable too.  In a summery southern hemisphere sort of a way...
Rather chic, yes?

Top; from Pattern Magic 3 by Tomoko Nakamichi, two different colours of cotton jersey scraps
Shorts; Burda 7723, white linen, details here
Camisole (underneath); Country Road
Thongs; Mountain Designs

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ginger shot cotton shirt

Dad had a special birthday recently, and I made a shirt for him!  Photographed here in his natural habitat...
I used shot cotton in Ginger, which has a bright-ish ruby-red warp and an intensely curry-yellow weft; two colours which combine to make this wonderfully intense bronze-orange colour; perfect for my Dad's olive skin and dark brown hair.  I think he looks great in this colour!
And the fabric... well, can I just diverge into a rave for a tick?    Ohmigosh!  but this shot cotton is such a dream to work with...truly, every seamster needs at least one shot cotton shirt in their sewing career, just for the sheer pleasure of cutting, pinning together and sewing this stuff!  I've made a couple of shirts of this fabric for Craig, here and here, and myself things from the leftovers, and I cannot get over how absolutely fab is this fabric.  Seriously, sewing induced bliss or what, wow...  (calms oneself)
Now, back to business...
There were some slightly nerve-racking fitting issues; since this was to be a surprise birthday prezzie I couldn't actually measure up the birthday boy himself without giving it away, so Mum had given me some measurements over the phone.  But I was still pretty nervous when it came time to take the scissors to this luscious fabric... and then Mum and Dad came up for a very fortuitously timed stay, and one time they were out I slyly tip-toed into the bedroom and feeling like a rather sneaky and devious sewing-sleuth, measured up all the dimensions of one of Dad's shirts and jotted them down (maniacal laugh as I zoom out and back to the sewing room, tape measure a-flying...).  And luckily the fit is spot-on and Dad reckons it's pretty comfy and stylish!
I used Burda 7767 again, (might have to start compiling yet another Rogue's gallery for this pattern soon...) with a few adjustments; namely, added two breast pockets with curved lower edges and curve-edged pocket flaps, shaped the lower hemline in a shirtwaist curve, shortened the sleeves, and added a nice V-detail at the centre of the sleeve hems with a decorative button at the apex of the V, for which I wrote a tutorial here.  
I flat-felled the armhole seam allowances, but I don't know if I would do this again.  Y'know, how sometimes you are so busy making the insides look perfect you start to forget that it is the appearance on the outside that is actually of paramount importance, yeah?  My flat-felled seams do look pretty good (if I say so myself) but it was a fiddly process and topstitching from the inside impacted on the neatness on the outside.  I wasn't as happy as if I had just overlocked the armhole seam allowance, pinned them down and topstitched them down from the outside, like I usually do...
I debated about using either of the ruby-red or the curry-yellow colours for topstitching; I usually like some sort of contrasting colour, or at least something that stands out somehow, but I ended up going with a burnt orange that sorta matches the overall hue of the fabric.  And with little matte chocolate brown buttons.  And btw, those buttonholes on the collar are intentionally left uncut, since they are purely decorative and you are not supposed to do up those buttons on a casual shirt; I think they look neater that way.
Isn't he a handsome bloke?

Shirt; Burda7767 with modifications, shot cotton

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bamboo shoot

...that is the name of this top; my latest foray into Pattern Magic, by Tomoko Nakamichi.
The folds/tucks on the front of the design are like the new shoots on bamboo, spraying out to each side in graduated offset arcs.
I chose to make this design into a little top with short cap sleeves, a buttoned up back, and a wide loose waist band; necessarily a shortish top because of the constraints of my fabric.  Yup, I was using up scraps, as per usual!  From this linen shirt I made for Craig... (I know it may seem like most of my clothes are made from scraps, and I have to admit a fair whack of them are!  The thing is, I loathe waste with a passion...  and have been known to hoard scraps for years.... hehe.  Some day I will have to round up in one post the projects I have made, purely from scraps)  
I like this style of blouse, it brings back strong memories to me of the blouses we used to wear in our winter school uniform, over our plaid wool skirts.  Except our school blouses had a collar and were buttoned up at the front, naturally.  This top is quite loose, so I can leave all the buttons done up except the top one and slip it over my head.  This means only the top button needs doing up behind my neck, which is good, since I discovered that doing up that middle button requires a solid command of yoga...  And about that; I'm thinking it is about time some new moves were introduced into the Yoga repertoire along with saluting the sun, and the down dog and all that; may I suggest "lady doing up her back buttons/zip"?  I think that would be a pretty useful new move, yes?
The  neckline is faced, the side and shoulder seams are flat-felled, and the armhole seam allowances are finished with HongKong seaming.  The buttons are the little shell buttons that I bought in Tokyo, whilst out shopping with Yoshimi, Novita and my daughter Cassie, so I felt it was quite right that I use Japanese buttons for a Japanese designed garment.  Fitting, yes?  The buttonholes on the button band are vertically aligned, whilst the buttonholes on the waist band are horizontally aligned, this is a little feature that I recalled from my old school blouses, and wanted to have it in this blouse too.
The darts/folds were a little tricky.  In the photograph in the book, it doesn't look as if there is any stitching yet, but just folded in place.  When I first stitched mine in place they didn't look nearly as nice... so I unpicked and re-stitched and pressed them one by one, slightly inside their seam allowance,  so the stitching is hidden just inside the fold, about 3mm.  This seemed to do the trick, and looks more like the picture in the book.

Top; based on the "bamboo shoot" design in Pattern Magic, by Tomoko Nakamichi, finished blouse of my own design, white linen
Skirt; skirt "m" from Unique Clothes Any Way You Like, by Natsuno Hiraiwa, pink linen/cotton, details here
Shoes; Bronx, from Zomp shoes

So, with regard to the Pattern Magic series, I have some further comments it might be worth noting here for others wishing to make use of these excellent and very innovative design books... I have made up a few designs from all three books now and in my opinion the third book has by far the easiest projects; being both very easy to fit (they're all stretch-knit, and really, who can't fudge fit a stretch?) and also that they are all in the form of complete and finished garments.
A lot of the designs in the first book are in the form of design concepts, a fabric manipulation "idea" that one can take and build on; apply to some nebulous garment, the exact form of which is entirely up to the individual.  I like this flexibility, but it does take extra thought and some dressmaking experience to self-draft those little extras that are needed to get yourself a finished and wearable item.  For example, take the sleeves on my new top here... the Pattern Magic book does have dimensions for a sleeve sloper to get you started.  I discovered in my very early experiments in this book that the sleeve needed tonnes of adjusting to make it work for me.  Eventually abandoned the given sloper and made my own (the one I used here) based on the measurements of my bodice sloper and partly on sleeves in patterns I already had.  I found that the one in the book had a very shallow sleeve cap, that was like a straitjacket on my ginormously hefty arms ... Actually I'm joking there.  I'm not hefty by Australian standards at all, but when I am working with Japanese patterns I often feel a bit, er, well huge... by comparison.  Let me put it this way, when I am tracing the designs from Unique Clothes Any Way You Like, by Natsuno Hiraiwa, I use the largest size, whereas in Vogue patterns I am a 10, and even then I always take in several centimetres off the waist.
Don't get me wrong, this is not a complaint about the books!  I love these Japanese pattern books with a passion, they are completely without parallel in the pattern world and I just wish more of our "ordinary" patterns would take note and branch out a bit.  Get out of that rut.  Just thought I would say more about my experiences here in the hope it helps anyone else wishing to make something out of these excellent books.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Old things...

... this will be the very last of my "old things" posts.  I promise.
I've done a mammoth sort-through of the photos and I think this is it!  (heaves a sigh of relief...)

Firstly, since this is the only garment in this post still in our possession (apart from the Grim Reaper come burqa outfit, that is); a cardigan I knitted for Craig.  It is knitted in the fair isle method.  Above is a picture Craig took of me wearing his cardigan on a holiday last year (isn't he sweet, giving his cold inadequately-dressed wife his nicely pre-warmed cardigan to wear, hmmm?  What a gentleman!)
And some close-ups of the cardigan I took today...
showing the right front, and at right the wrong side of the fair isle knitting... (as is correct, the yarn is carried over at the back with no weaving in, only if the distance is four stitches or less...)

Now, some costumes...
Sam as "Link".  I thought he was so cute in this.  He loved this little outfit and often wore it just for everyday wear.  (if you would like to see what this cute little jigger looks like now, go here...)
Sam, as... guess who?  Hehe, the famous Harry Potter, natch, compete with broomstick and Hedwig the owl.  
On that note, a black cloak is such a useful thing to have in the dress-up box.  It can be the basis for so many costumes.
Here is the same robe again, worn by Cassie as Hermione, complete with Garfield Crookshanks the cat... I threw together the skirt and tie as well, but they do not bear close inspection...!)
(I've shown this picture before... but here it is again just to illustrate the versatility of the plain black robe as a costume), Tim and two of his mates as Grim Reapers.  I made all three of their costumes.
Tim's same costume again, this time worn by me to an Arabian Nights party.  I didn't want to hire an outfit and I didn't want to make some bejewelled thing I would never wear again, and as every single female I have seen in the Arabian region is dressed something like this, so I was like, yeah this'll do.  I naively assumed other girls would have the same idea...  As it turned out I was literally the only female dressed (I thought) anywhere near authentically!  Also the only one not heavily sequinned and baring plenty of belly-flesh...  I confess the costume was abandoned when we decided to start dancing!  Don't worry I had a skirt and top on underneath...
So, away from costumes now, and a ball-gown of my own design that I made for balls in years gone by (Sorry for the headless shot but my face and my hair look awful in this picture...!)  It is silk organza, overlaying silk and silk jersey layers, three layers in all.  It had a beaded and embroidered neckpiece, both beaded and embroidered by me, that is...
A dress I made for Cassie for her graduation dance at the end of primary school.  It was a simple turquoise cotton halter neck dress, the fabric had metallic gold lines randomly strewn across.  I also made her jewellery, of turquoise glass fish beads and strands of gold wire.
Some rather lovely (if I say so myself) wide-legged white pants that she wore almost constantly for a summer, and a little white broderie anglaise blouse.  Both my own design.
Going way back, and this shirt is from a Vogue designer pattern that I believe my mother still has my copy...  I know I also made and am wearing here the small-waisted and very flared skirt from the same pattern too...
I made both the skirt and top and also my necklace here.  The top was an experiment, I flipped the shoulders out in a twist to get this cowl-like effect.  It used to get a lot of compliments, believe it or not! (my friends are very kind)  We are sitting on one of our sofas in its first slipcover, made by me too...  (now looks like this)
Some more dresses.  I really regret now I never got any good pictures of these two.  The white and red one was rather nice; it was a dress, but looked like a matching skirt and camisole when I was wearing it, as it had layers in several graduated lengths.  My own design.  The patchwork dress, also my own design, took lots of planning; I bought the fabrics separately and cut and pieced them together, then made the dress.  It has smaller squares at the top, graduating to larger squares around the midriff, and then down to the largest squares at the hemline.  It is all on the bias, with a handkerchief hem, and I loved it!
A drop waisted, handkerchief hemmed dress of white dotted swiss voile, pictured against a famous backdrop.  I still have this Vogue pattern too, actually...

And that should be all folks!
From now on, I will only be showing newly made stuff here....