Monday, December 31, 2012

2012; a retrospective

Here we are, the very last day of the year! and a good time to reflect... was the year fabulous? was it awful? was it so humdrum we now cannot remember a single thing? 
Of course, the beauty of having the blog is that a whole bunch of stuff is documented in black and white buff yellow and there is just no escaping the truths within; good or bad, wrought by my own fair hand.
A favourite picture from each month of the year... June has two because I just had to have one each from Italy and Paris!


Thoughts on the year?  
I am quite comfortable now in making my own entire wardrobe.  It's been years (3? 4?) since I bought any RTW clothes.  I'm kinda happy with just about everything that I've made, only a handful of things per year get chopped up or passed on to others who liked them more than I did.  I'm getting better at letting go of things that are tatty or past their best, and allowing myself to wear the newer and exciting things I've made, with less fear of "mucking them up".
The big big big thing of the year for me....?
 I'm sewing my own lingerie now!!  This is something I always thought would be beyond me, so I am so glad I got brave and gave it a whirl.  My own self-made bras are so soft and comfy and well-fitting compared to any RTW thing I have worn in the past.  
Another personal best for the year was sewing my own raincoat...  I did it!  I cannot tell you how proud I am of that thing (smug self-pat on the back)

You can skip this next bit if you found it dull...  the finances.  So this year I set out to account for my sewing habit.  Like Ebenezer Scrooge I obsessively totted up every last cent, for every single thing sewing related that I used this year.  And I know I said I would disclose all the sewing I did for my family, including gifts, but I have decided not to.  I'm OK with that.  I mean, I know what I spent, but the secret will die with me.  The following is only just the sewing for ME!

Total expenditure: $1330.73.  
Number of garments made, counting each set of 1 bra+ 2 undies as one garment: 65
(plus 15 items for family)
Average cost per garment: $20.47
Favourite garment: Ivory trench coat
Any fails?: my double sleeved shirt got worn only a few times before I decided that bright-ish shade of sky-blue was awfully unflattering on me... fortunately Cassie likes it and took it.  It is a dress on her, and she looks adorable in it!
Garments made from old fabric: 29
Garments made from new fabric: 38 (yes, these numbers add up to more than 65, but two garments were made from both old and new fabric, and I counted these in both categories)
Refashioned garments: 12
Most expensive garment made: Peppercorn cardigan $108.70
Number of times worn:  ohmigosh, countless.  Probs at least 40 times during the winter and early spring.
Least expensive garment made: 18! garments were free!

So.  This is more than I thought I would spend, I had actually estimated about $1200 for me-sewing, but overall I don't think this is too bad.  Of course, I am very fortunate that a lot of my fabric is given to me; however that is actually a normal state of affairs.  Since everyone in my life knows how much I love to sew, I do receive a lot of fabric; both cast offs from other people's stashes, as well as in the form of gifts for my birthday and for Christmas.
There were some items that bumped up the total more than I expected, particularly lingerie.  Just the findings, elastic and the moulded bra cups that I like cost $25 per set of bra plus 2 undies, and that is before buying any fabric or lace...  and considering I made five sets this year... well lingerie turned out to be a more costly habit than I anticipated!
But so what; I'm making my own lingerie!!!  Wooo hooo!  Plus, each set is still far less expensive than anything I would buy, so I'm satisfied.  There will be more.

I also discovered that knitting is kinda an expensive hobby relative to sewing.  Yarns are quite dear compared to fabric.  But am I going to give up knitting? heck no.  I will take better care of my knitted items from now on though!

So, I am looking forward to the New Year already!
Please let me say, Thank You to all those who read my blog, and who take the time to comment; your presence and your support is very much appreciated.  Big hugs to all of you!
Also my very best wishes to all for a wonderful 2013, and I hope it brings to you all that you've been hoping for!
See you next year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Hmmm, I'm going to have to squeeze a few lobbed-in-together Christmas-make posts, or I am not going to finish this biz before the end of the year!
Firstly; as I am sure everyone is aware ;) Christmases here are HOT!  Here in Perth; we delighted in temperatures of 40C on the day, and joy of joys; the entire following week has, and will be, also over 40C.  Monday promises a cool change of 38C, lol.
Literally, I've been in my bathers almost all day  :S
Anyhoo, Christmas Day is generally synonymous with cold seafood, chilled bubbly, cold ham, and refrigerated fruit platters, since the very thought of firing up the oven to cook a traditional hot roast anything, that is going to heat up the kitchen and the house even more than it is already, is just too awful for words....  however, some traditional European dishes have snuck their way into our hearts and been adopted, and one of my favourites is Siena cake.
It is a deliciously rich, flavoursome and chewy concoction and makes a terrific gift; it lasts happily in the fridge for weeks, that's if it remains uneaten for that long.  This year I multiplied the recipe by 4 to make a ginormous batch, enough for a cake for everyone else in the family, so everyone got a Siena cake as well as the owls.  
I use a simplified version of the recipe from the Italian cookbook published in the 90's by the Australian Women's Weekly, the original is reproduced here

Siena cake

125g (4oz) slivered almonds
125g (4oz) hazelnuts
60g (2oz) glace apricots
60g (2oz) glace pineapple
60g (2oz) mixed peel
2/3 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
60g (2oz) dark chocolate
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
icing sugar

Spread almonds and hazelnuts on oven tray, put into moderate oven 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly golden. Chop hazelnuts roughly, combine in bowl with almonds, chopped apricots, chopped pineapple, chopped mixed peel, sifted flour, sifted cocoa and cinnamon, mix well.

Put sugar and honey in separate saucepan, stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved, brushing down sides of saucepan with brush dipped in hot water to dissolve any sugar crystals. Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered approximately 5 minutes or until syrup forms a soft ball when a few drops are dropped into a glass of cold water. Drop chocolate in and stir well to melt then add
 to fruit and nut mixture, mix them well.

Spread mixture quickly and evenly into 20cm round cake tin lined with baking paper. Bake in moderately slow oven 35 minutes, remove from oven, cool in tin. Turn out, remove paper. Wrap in aluminium foil. 
Leave at least one day before cutting. Before serving, sift icing sugar thickly over top.
Nice to have on hand for if friends spontaneously pop over for celebratory drinkies during the Christmas-New Year's break unexpectedly....  I cut mine into very slender 1cm slices and serve them as pictured at the top, for a decadent morning tea or an after dinner treat. 

Random trivia: actually our dog was supposed to be named Siena too; but an extra "n" snuck in there somehow when all her papers were filled out and registered.  I blame Sienna Miller entirely.
Another coupla makes; inspired by Novita, I made some cute little novelty coin purses for my littlest nieces and nephew.  These are the Feed the Animals coin purses, from the Straight Stitch Society.
They are fully lined with the same cotton used for the "food" zip pull, and were made all from scraps and small odds and bobs in my fabric and button stash, and I bought one short zip, from Spotlight.
Following tradition, I slipped a coin into each purse before wrapping them  :)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

As blue as; Cassie's Christmas dress

Last up: Cassie! and I made a dress for Cassie for Christmas this year; this is the loose drape tank-top from drape drape by Hisako Sato.  I used a thin cotton jersey, printed in an interesting fractured pixels design of ocean blue upon powder blue.  I bought the fabric from the Fabric Store in Melbourne during our trip there in September.
I think the tank-top is designed to just be a summer cover-up, the only explanation for its skimpiness and bra-revealing nature; so I also made a matching little tank top; that is, the regular kind of tank top! to go under it, just in case Cassie decided she wanted to wear it anywhere other than the beach.  I based the shape of the tank top on a well-fitting Tshirt that she owns already.
For the drape drape tank-top; I edged the neckline and both of those big big armholes with a cross-cut strip of the jersey, attached right-side to wrong side on the inside, and then flipped out to the right side of the dress and stitched down on the outside; so the raw edge rolls up on itself and over the stitching.  I can go into more details of this finish with a pictorial tute, if anyone is interested... ?  Looks quite nice and kinda cute, and is appropriate for a casual little summery thing, I think.
The regular tank-top neckline and armhole edges are just finished by turning under a narrow hem twice and top-stitching on the inside face.
The lower edge of both pieces are finished with a hem, turned under twice and top-stitched.

Friday, December 28, 2012

White Christmas; Craig's Christmas shirt

I made a shirt for Craig for Christmas too; and used er, hehehe; Burda 7767 again!  I bought some very nice white cotton broadcloth from Spotlight; and the buttons are also from Spotlight.
Actually, this shirt is a response to a rarity; a request.   Rumblings and murmurings about a nice, smart-casual, short-sleeved white shirt have been increasing in frequency and volume for a few weeks, at least.
I tuned in.  I took action.
Most satisfyingly, he was very very pleased when he opened up his pressie on Christmas morning! and he put it on straight away.  Actually, all my boys put their new shirts on straight away.  Cassie put on her new outfit too (hers to appear here tomorrow!!  :)  )  Most gratifying.  I have to confess; Christmas lunch I looked around, and Dad was wearing this shirtmy two boys and my husband wearing their shirts, and my daughter, as well as (duh) myself; was wearing an outfit made by me. .  My heart just ... well, swelled.  Real warm fuzzy moment   (sigh) 
This is a fairly simple version of the pattern.  Simple was just about all I could cope with by this time, since as you can imagine I was fast approaching men's-shirt saturation point .... And after the hard and heavy duty this pattern has endured over the past few months I think it deserves a nice little rest now  :)  Time to go bye-byes, good and faithful well-thumbed pattern, wishing you sweet pattern-y dreams and I'll see you in... oh, sometime in the future, I'm sure ....  if when I can muster a skerrick of enthusiasm.
and (whispers) you can be sure I will be leaping with joy upon some new patterns in the New Year.  Yup.  NEW.  Patterns!  Whoo hooooo!!!
This latest version of Burda 7767 has short sleeves, and two very simple squared patch breast pockets, the left one has been partitioned to have a pen compartment.
For the first time I gave the shirt a club collar by curving the collar points off.
The armscye seam allowances are flat felled; utilising a gathering stitch along the curved sleeve cap to achieve this neatly.  The side and sleeve seams are flat-felled also.
I usually like to add a traditionally curved lower hem to my mens' shirts; but this time I went with a split side seam.  It is hard to see with the white-on-white stitching; but I stitched horizontally along the top of the split with a tight, closely spaced bar of zip-zag stitching.
Going by the worn worn state of Craig's current white short-sleeved shirt collection; I am completely confident this one will be getting tonnnnnes of wear!

Burda 7767 modified, white cotton, my review of this pattern here

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Stripey Sam; Sam's Christmas shirt

Next up; Sam! and I made a shirt for his Christmas pressie too.  Ohhhh yes, I have been a very very busy bee lately!
I used Burda 7767, and blue and white striped fabric from the Fabric Store, Melbourne...  bought during our trip there in September.  I think it is a cotton rayon mix, very crisp, crackly and crinkly, and it has silver lurex threads running randomly through as well.  I bought the white and silver buttons from Fabulous Fabrics.  This version has long sleeves, which can be rolled up and held in place by an arrowhead tab that buttons onto the sleeve, and a single pocket.
I received some complimentary comments about the stripe matching of the pocket on Craig's birthday shirt, and thank you  :) but the truth is that stripe matching a patch pocket is NOTHING compared to the stripe matching in this shirt. 
Particularly in the case of the two sleeve cuff plackets.   I performed multiple repeats of teeny tiny precision measurements...  checking and re-checking where the stripes were going to fall on the plackets in relation to the sleeve.  Anyone who has ever sewn a tailored detail like a sleeve cuff placket will know the precision required to get these looking nice and even and perfect ... and to get the stripes matching exactly like this as well?    (self high-five)  Truly I consider this one of the highest sewing achievements of my year!

Sleeve tabs... 
Of course the stripes on the pocket match up to those on the shirt too....
The armscye seams allowances are flat-felled on the inside using a gathering stitch on the sleeve cap to achieve this neatly on a curved seam; and the sleeve and side seams are French seams.

Shirt; Burda 7767 modified, my review of this pattern here; blue and white striped cotton mix with a silver lurex stripe

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chocolate with a little zing; Tim's Christmas shirt

I made a shirt for our eldest son for a Christmas pressie...
using Burda 7767 (surprise!!) and some lovely deeply sludgy, purply-chocolate linen bought from the Fabric Store in Melbourne during our September visit there, and I found the perfect turquoise buttons and matching thread in KnitWit.
Tim is quite a snappy dresser and cares about his wardrobe, he likes clothes that have that distinctive modern-hipster look; classic lines but with odd details and a slightly grungy edge.  This pattern does have very classic lines, and I thought the unexpected neon jolt of the turquoise buttons and matching thread I used for topstitching throughout adds the edge that the shirt needs to steer it firmly away from boring (from a young man's point of view) "classic" territory and shimmy it into the "hipster" sphere.
To really bring the vivid turquoise visually into the spotlight; I added buttons galore and OD'd on the topstitching, going for double top-stitching throughout, wherever a button or topstitching could be put, there it went!
I added two bellows breast pockets.  The pockets have angled lower corners and the pocket flaps have contrasting curved lower edges, for a bit of visual non-matchingness... something quirky, therefore hipster.  
The sleeves have a separate folded-up cuff with double buttonholes and buttons for decoration.
The armscye seams are flat felled on the inside using my tutorial for flat-felling a curved seam here to achieve this neatly, and the side seams are French seams.  The lower edge is curved and finished with a narrow hem.

By the way; this shirt is a true button-down shirt.  
This other shirt that I made for Dad is NOT an button-down shirt... see the difference?  
A button-down shirt is of course one in which the collar buttons down onto the body of the shirt....  NOT a shirt which simply buttons to put on and take off the shirt, for heaven's sake.  A coupla months ago Club BMV sent around an email advertising a course for sewing a tailored shirt, which is all well and good and probably an excellent course... however the blurb waxing lyrical about the "classic button-down shirt" was accompanied by a photo of a shirt that was clearly not a button-down shirt.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who was pained to the core at the sight of it.  I'm very glad to see they've rectified their error now though.

Shirt; Burda 7767 modified, my review of this pattern here, made of purply-chocolate linen

Monday, December 24, 2012

the Wolery

After my brothers and I had all moved out of home and started our own families; I started a rather non-rigid, and not annual, tradition of making a Christmas ornament for each of us... just something silly and small, not anything of great worth or anything but something that could be a commonality to us in our separate homes.  This year I was happy to find the time for it again  :)
so please say tu-whit, tu-whoo!  (trans.  Hello) to...
the Black parliament above
the Green parliament 
the White parliament
and the Brown parliament.

I used this pattern developed by Moonstitches, and I used old corduroy jeans, some scraps of cotton and embroidery thread; and the little buttons I had to buy new, from Spotlight.  Each owl has a circular cardboard base, covered with cotton and stitched in place.  I slipped a glass bead inside just before stitching the base on, to make the owls bottom-heavy and to help them stay upright and not blow over.
I just love how the tiniest variations in height and width, and the placement of the beak and the eyes, results in very distinct and individual personalities in each owl!

Merry Christmas all!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Looking sharp! Craig's birthday shirt

It is my husband's birthday, and I have made a shirt for him!

I used my favourite my only! men's shirt pattern Burda 7767, adjusted for a perfect custom fit; and a gorgeously high quality, striped shirting cotton from Tessuti's in Melbourne, bought in high cloak-and-dagger secrecy in a moment while Craig's back was turned during our trip there in September; mwahahaha!!!!  Cannot believe I managed to pull it off actually, a hidden-but-in-full-view purchase; my gosh, but I'm one devious little wife-y.  
Cool as a cucumber, my friends...  Coooool.  As.  A.  Cucumber.  ;)
For the white collar, collar stand, button bands, cuffs and plackets and the arrow-shaped cap on the single pocket; I used a very nice white cotton that I bought for my own use from Fabulous Fabrics.  It hurt like mad to have to cut into "my" cotton.  It really did.  Honestly, I searched and searched for white fabric that was a reasonable textural match for the striped fabric but couldn't find anything by the time I wanted to start on Craig's shirt.  Can you believe white shirting cotton would be such a rare beast??? well, it is.  Trust me.  I've scoured high and low, and it is currently non-existent...
Thus explaining and self-justifying why I pounce upon, buy up big, and hoard high quality white cotton whenever and wherever I see it.... and this is one of my treasures  (hoarsely croaking) " .... My precious...."
I think the shirt really needed the white contrast bits; in fact I think they make it.  I really wanted this shirt to be a super high quality business shirt, like the sort he could wear in important professional situations, and look mighty spiffy at the same time.  NOT one that would provoke any "oh, and did your wife make your shirt for you then, hmmm?" comments...  :)  
And I have to admit I am pretty chuffed with it.  Actually I am quite thrilled with how this looks; the fabric, the quality and the finish.  I think this is the best quality shirt I have made so far.
The armscye seams are flat felled inside, and I used my own tutorial for flat felling a curved seam to achieve this neatly.  The side and sleeve seams are French seams.  I bought the little black matte buttons from Fabulous Fabrics also.

for those like me who like checking out the insides...

Shirt; Burda 7767, striped shirting cotton, with white cotton detailing