Monday, January 4, 2016

Alabama Chanin meets Johanna Basford

I have been awfully quiet here lately. Blame it on Life, lack of mojo, who knows? Sometimes I'm inspired to document my makes, sometimes I'm not. Usually I post finished items, but this time I thought I'd post a progress report! If I get around to it I should post about the feather stencilled/embroidered Alabama Chanin skirt I made too.

Currently working on a four panel dress, in Alabama Chanin's new leaves stencil, which I purchased as downloadable artwork from their website, printed out, and traced onto laminator plastic as a stencil. I'm really pleased with the green fabric, which was my first attempt at dying for years. (All the pictures are of the same fabric. Vagaries of indoor photos and phone camera make it look different.) The underlayer is off white.

Anyone not living under a rock recently will be aware of the current craze for adult colouring books (boy did it make me cringe typing THAT into google!). I happened upon some by a Scottish (I think) illustrator called Johanna Basford and leafing through one saw a page of gorgeous bugs. That set the wheels spinning in my brain, and this dress exploded into my imagination, because, BUG DRESS!

No effort is being made to be biologically accurate to any actual insect, or arachnid.  I blew up the picture in question as the bugs were too small to render on my cotton knit fabric.  Stitches are a simple back stitch, chain stitch and couching. I'm using hand/machine embroidery thread, mostly polyester, one or two rayon. The metallic emroidery thread is being couched with embroidery thread.  I have no idea how this will stand up to wear, so the bugs are being embroidered onto scraps of fabric which I will applique onto the stitched dress panels. Then I can remove or replace as required. I can play with placement ideas this way too. When the excess fabric around each bug is cut away more leaves will show and they won't look so chunky on the dress.

I bought three of Johanna Basford's books, and nobody is allowed to colour in them! It could be a while before this theme runs it's course....

(This is the first post I've managed to write using my tablet rather than desktop computer, and since I use my tablet almost exclusively, maybe that's why I don't post more often!)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Gray skirt.

Hehehe - only time I will spell the colour "gray".  (In honour of David Gray naturally. Yes I'm that easily amused.) I finished my skirt in time for the concert, which was seriously bucket-list amazing!  Best.Event.Ever.

Here's a dodgy phone pic of how I wore it to work afterwards.  I wore the silver top (a Vogue Issey Miyake design I made a few years ago), no tights, and a dressier jacket to the concert.  Too excited to get a pic of that! Did I mention that the concert was AMAZING!?

And after I finished that I started this dress.  Which I put aside for a while to work on something else, then came back to and finished in record time.  If I'd gone full-on from start to finish it would have been done in less than a fortnight!  

I wanted to try this dress pattern (the long version of my words top) before I commit to a more labour-intensive embellishment idea.  I like it!  I love the cardy I'm wearing in the above pic - a mid weight long sleeved bolero from work, which I do not yet own.  It matches my dress perfectly, so I think it might be my next purchase.....

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Queue jumping projects

I've long been guilty of abandoning a project part-way through in favour of one which takes my fancy Right Now.  Unless I have a specific deadline I have come to embrace this - I won't be working on the project I'm not inspired by anyway, so I might as well set it aside.  Usually I come back to these projects with renewed enthusiasm or ideas.

I've just set aside my current Alabama Chanin project (the pale orange skirt and top I set aside to go back to the rose dress which in turn had been set aside for those!) because in April David Gray is playing in Christchurch.  He is my absolute all time favourite singer so I am positively bouncing with excitement and counting down till the concert (which I'm going to with my sister).  Naturally that needs a new outfit.  I would LOVE to have made a grey rose dress, but two months isn't long enough, so I figured I'd make a skirt. (I've been having fun winding up Georgia by saying I should wear all grey because his name is Gray.  She says "No. Mum. Just No")

I started with this dress, which I got in an Op Shop (I think it was Paperbag Princess) for $2 last year.  No way would I wear it like this.
However, it's a lovely soft rayon knit and has only one side seam and one shoulder seam, meaning I could harvest the whole thing for fabric.  After cutting the four skirt panels there is a nice big chunk left, which will become something else.

Therese asked how I print onto fabric.  Well it's very low tech.  I cut a stencil from laminator plastic (I get the nice people at Warehouse Stationery to run me through an empty piece, which costs me a few dollars).  This one is made from some offcuts they gave me for nothing, taped together.  I apply the fabric paint (Fastex brand, because that is what is available locally, and it works just fine) using a foam roller and tray which cost about $9 from Bunnings.  I leave the painted panels to dry overnight then heat set the paint with an iron.

This is the first panel with most roses stitched and snipped, a few beaded, and a few left to bead if I have time before April.

Closer shot.  The underlayer is pale blue, but appears quite greyish against the darker grey.  The paint is white, but looks pale grey on the dark grey as well.

How long till April?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Nougat. Finally.

I abandoned this dress last summer, in a bout of apathy over our dismal summer.  It sat in many, many pieces for a very long time until I found my "to sew" list actually empty of stuff for other people.  I've been chipping away at it for a while, and today seemed like a good day to finish - start the new year by completing a UFO! (Note that for a change I am looking at the camera, and smiling - David is on holiday and took these for me!)

I'm not thrilled with it, but that is not the fault of the pattern, which I absolutely love.  I used two rather light, and not opaque cottons. Underlining gave the required opacity but created considerable bulk which was difficult to deal with.  Inside there are places that look like a total dog's breakfast, and my seam matching along one side seam is sooooooo not up to my usual very anal standard. Since matching the seams was going to cause more problems I elected to leave them be and be satisfied that at least the seam lengths matched and the zip is smooth.

The biggest issue is simply that I am not the same size that I was when I started it.  It fits, but not that well. Not the fault of dress or pattern.  Being cotton, it will give a little with wear, which will help. (Oh  yes, I am definitely going to wear this!)

I'll just have to make it again, in a more appropriate fabric and size.  Because I still neeeeeeeeed this dress.  It is such a cool design, and a fun, challenging make.  Things I really love in a pattern.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Slow roses

Well these were a long time coming - both dress and post!  Shortly after I last posted the manager at work resigned, and I worked full time for two months while a new one was recruited, worked out her notice at her previous job, and was trained.  (She is really lovely, so worth waiting for!) I know plenty of women work full time and manage a family, and sew, etc etc etc but I found that by the time I got home at 6pm (when it was dark, since it was winter) I was totally lacking in motivation to actually sew anything.  I continued sporadic work on this dress (which I know I'd begun by January) missing two deadlines by which I'd considered finishing, before a final full-on push to finish in time to wear it to a barbecue we were invited to the day after a wedding we were also invited to, in Wanaka last weekend.

Tada!  End result of almost a year's work, around 100 hours probably.  Alabama Chanin six panel dress, rose stencil adapted from a design I found in a library book.

Once again  a side turned head I'm afraid - I could not get a shot of my face that didn't make me go "Urgh!" and hit the delete button.  The tripod pics get the job done, but a real live person behind the camera gets a much better shot!

I also made a new dress to wear to the wedding (naturally!) but did not get a single photo of myself at said wedding, so will have to dress up for the camera some other time.  Not today because the dress on which I based the pattern is in the laundry and I need to show both of them.  Hopefully it won't take me four-ish months to get around to it.  No promises.

Edited to add - I've just proofread this after publishing and noticed some words are underlined and link to ads!  I'm not active enough online to have any idea what that's about, so my apologies for the annoyance, I'll get my tech support team (ie, the teenagers) to explain it to me and see if we can make it go away.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I made a dress. And undies.

I find the sewing mojo tends to desert me in winter, despite the fact that my sewing desk is in a lovely sunny corner of my house, flooded with sun and natural light and lovely to work at.  This winter is no exception, and I have a pile of projects in various stages of completion - some just vague plans, some concrete plans with pattern and fabric selected, some cut out, some partly sewn.  I find it best to just go with whatever project fires me at the time.

Which was this dress a week or so ago.  I'd seen it in the April Burda (style #106) and decided that I Must Have It.  I even had that issue out of the library before it hit the store shelves here, but didn't get around to tracing it because I didn't have fabric chosen.  Then when sorting my fabric stash I came across this one which fit the bill perfectly - very drapey, neutral colour. I bought the magazine on a Friday and finished the dress Monday night, leap-frogging SEVERAL other already started projects. Typical.

The front collar thing drapes really nicely, but I did end up hand sewing it from the point to where it is joined a bit further up the neckline. It flopped just a bit more than I liked. Next time I make this (I feel a shorter version coming on, to wear with jeans) I'll just sew it in all along the neckline seam.

It is a bit wrinkly from wearing, which I didn't notice till I looked at these pics, and rushing to get in front of the camera after pressing the timer button means that I didn't get the collar to sit perfectly either, oops. I love the shapely little cap sleeves.

I made a straight unaltered size 36, which with the benefit of hindsight would be perfect if I wanted to wear it like this, but it is winter here, and COLD. So I wear it with my cosy warm tech merino under it, bulking things up a bit.  For work I wear it with this mid-weight cardy over the top, leggings and my beloved pink boots.  I love that this colour was introduced by work because it matches them perfectly!

I feel I should apologise for the pretty uninspiring photos here. Today is my day off and quite frankly I've been that busy lately that the thought of brushing my hair, let alone styling it nicely, or in any other way making an effort was just Too Much. I figured I'd snap these and at least get it posted.  Maybe next time I wear it to work I'll take some better ones - better yet, get David to take them because he makes me smile. I feel like an idiot smiling at a camera on a tripod so tend to look a bit dour.

My other quick project was these - the Rosy Ladyshorts from Cloth Habit.

I haven't made myself undies for over 20 years, but find as I get older I'm getting fussier about how I like them to fit, so thought I'd give this pattern a go. The fabric is an offcut from a drapey cardy I altered for one of my craft group friends. It needed the droopy front point reduced, and what I cut off was big enough to trial these undies. I made them exactly according to instructions and I like how they turned out.  I haven't worn them yet since I only made them yesterday evening and wanted to photograph them before wearing, so I'll report later on how they are!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The $7 Tinkerbell costume

Georgia was going to a Peter Pan themed birthday party (can we just take a moment here to rejoice in a bunch of 14 year olds who think this would be fun, rather than something involving pretty much any celebrity of their demographic?) Anyway, she wanted to go as Tinkerbell, which I thought would be a really easy costume to make. It was. It was also very cheap!

I found this cotton waffle weave dressing gown in Tinkerbell green in an op shop for $1. Score!

After cutting out the pieces for the dress, this was all we had left. The pattern for the dress was a blend of two patterns - bodice from #124 and skirt from #110 from Burda 06/96. This is why I have a large collection of Burda back issues. I can always find a pattern which will speed up any drafting required for any style I need! Fabric constraints meant that I had to fold out one of the skirt pleats which reduced the very pronounced hips that Tink has, but it was close enough. Georgia requested that her skirt be a tad longer than Tink's also. (ie, not in danger of showing her knickers if she bent over) Phew!

And here's Tinkerbell. I bought her wings at a dollar type shop for $3.50 and she bought a can of yellow hairspray for $2.50. She made a wand from a twig painted pink and tied on various scraps of organza ribbon which I had lying around. My clear strapped bra and green shoes finished her off.

I did pin fit the bodice on Georgia, but that was the total extent of care taken! No internal structure whatsoever (the dress is safety pinned to her bra), no seam finishing other than clipping and topstitching open. The hem is raw and the only time any of the project saw an iron was when I needed to press the dressing gown's front band open to cut facings from it. Rather different from my usual anal attitude that Everything must be Just So.

And to finish, while we were taking photos Isabella wanted in on the act. Big sisters being what they are, Georgia photobombed.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Drape Drape quickie

Having long been a fan of the Drape Drape garments showing up all over the internet, and having had Drape Drape 1 out of the library already, I was beside myself with glee to find 2 and 3 on the shelves a couple of weeks ago.  I LOVE the Dunedin Public Library!

I have several patterns traced and in the queue of stuff-I-have-to-make, but as a first dip of the toes into these books I started with this design, #4 from Drape Drape 2.

My measurements suggested I could make a size M, so I did.  My fabric is possibly slightly less stretchy/drapey than would be ideal, resulting in the right sleeve thingy not hanging as gracefully as I would like, but when I'm not standing with arms at an angle to show this, it looks fine!  I raised the neckline by about 5cm as I was a bit worried that it would be too low.

Back. It's cut in one piece so those stripes have been manipulated into this direction! The one pattern piece looks like this.

It was very quick to make and is really comfy to wear. Today I'll wear it to work, styled like this. One of my Glowing Sky skirts, and my long drapey cardy (which I loooooove - this cardy is divine to wear and looks great with EVERYTHING!)

When I showed Georgia the T shirt yesterday after I'd finished sewing it, she gave it the teenage seal of approval, and suggested styling it like this for work. My other GS skirt, her black GS shrug  and my recently thrifted $8 pink boots.

I'm in trouble. The teenager has OPINIONS.

Speaking of the teenager, I recently made a wedding dress for her intermediate school textiles/food tech teacher.  Here it is.  Miss M is a stunning 6 ft tall brunette, so the dress doesn't fit my dummy at all well.

Bodice detail. Those lace straps sat perfectly on her shoulders, trust me!  Since the straps are purely decorative, the dress is constructed as though it is strapless, with a separate boned corsolette inside which provides all the support. On her it is slightly off the floor. I wish I had taken photos to show the lace borders carefully and painstakingly appliqued by hand onto the upper and lower edges of the bodice.

Anyway, Georgia was in her textiles class the other day, with other girls who had been at intermediate with her, and they were looking at bridal magazines. She casually drops into the conversation "This dress looks a bit like Miss M's wedding dress, but the lace on the bodice comes down a bit further". To which (of course) the response was "How do you know what Miss M's wedding dress looks like?!". Which of course gives Georgia the golden opportunity (probably waited and plotted for for weeks) to nonchalantly say "Oh, my Mum is making her dress. She comes to my house for fittings"  Her friends were suitably awestruck and impressed.  And Oliver (who is still at the intermediate at which Miss M taught) took a photo of her in the dress (which I took when she picked it up) to school to show his teachers.

Nice to know I can give my kids something to brag about :-)

Monday, January 27, 2014


Hiya! Back again! I've been a bit busy since I last posted *ahem*, almost three months ago.  I've done some sewing, mostly for other people, and as I mentioned in my last post, WORKING!  I loooove where I work.  I'm working part time at Glowing Sky, which is a company who make merino clothing.  The wool is grown in NZ, and the company manufactures here in NZ too.  It gives me a warm glow to work for people who are so committed to NZ, and to know that no sweatshop labour is involved in making the clothes! And having to wear it as work uniform is no hardship either!

Anyway, this lovely merino really lends itself to bold accessories, and I've long wanted to make myself a really wide corset belt, so finally got around to it last week. The pattern is from Burda 11/03, #129.

Exhibit A: (top and skirt are from Glowing Sky.) Side turned head is less about artistic posing and more about the manky, unsightly coldsore currently on my lip.

Back.  The black panel at CB is made of strips of elastic sewn to a lycra backing.

And this is how I wore it to work. The shrug is Glowing Sky too.  Note to self: wear a better bra.

And that worked so well that I made another one.  This fabric was left over scraps from a handbag I cut out years ago and have yet to sew up.  It's pretty flimsy, so I fused two layers of lightweight interfacing to the face fabric and one to the (much beefier) backing, which worked perfectly.

Back. Exactly the same construction.

The silver belt was made from three layers - face fabric, buckram, backing fabric.  The face fabric wrinkles a bit when worn because it has a bit of stretch and I should have cut it slightly smaller to allow for that. You live and learn.

The back panel is just strips of 5cm elastic, which I sewed to a backing of swimsuit lycra, to give it more beef.

When making the 2nd one I found the bulk of the seam intersections was near impossible to reduce/flatten.  No way would I wear this mess!

So I used a strap seam. I cut away all the seam allowance and sewed each side to a strip of fabric at the back so they butted exactly, then sewed binding over the front. After this shot I inserted boning which made it look even better.

Going back a bit, one of the projects eating into my sewing time before Christmas was this trench coat.  Keely was to be Godmother to a Very Special Baby, and the best gift she could think of was to commission me to make something.  Between us we came up with this. Influenced very largely by this one which I had pinned on Pinterest.

And in the mean time I am beavering away on Alabama Chanin projects, as always. While the kids are home on holiday I can do this in tiny bursts while constantly interrupted.  I'm working on a 4 panel skirt, and I have a matching 4 panel top to go with it as well.  IF SUMMER EVER ARRIVES.

To start this project I put off this project - the rasberry/maroon rose stencil dress I have wanted to make for months. I finally found the right shade of rasberry and got stuck in.  Then I thought, perhaps I should make a summery outfit, and do the dress (which I can wear year round) nearer winter.

As far as Dunedin's summer is concerned, lets just say it's a good thing I work in a store that sells merino clothes!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Using up leftovers

When one has no Alabama Chanin project lined up  after the one on which one is currently working, one tends to panic slightly, which actually lends itself to a bit of creative thinking, which led to this skirt.

I figured I could make this skirt (the skirt pattern is from the Alabama Stitch Book) from scraps left over from other projects, stencils created for other projects (except the rose one, which is for my next project), one paint colour, and thread also left over from other projects. Sort of a free skirt.
It was Georgia's idea to make the waistband (I prefer a waistband with elastic in it to foldover elastic at the waist) from  sections which matched the under layer of each panel. She shows great creative promise, that girl!

The skirt is comprised of four identically shaped panels, which means I can wear it with any two as the front, or with one panel centred, like this:

I love the shape of it, so there will be more of these in my future! I'm up to a dozen Alabama Chanin garments now, with no easing up on the love of making and wearing them!

Meanwhile my poor Nougat has been languishing as I suddenly got busy with sewing for other people, general busyness, and most excitingly, a new JOB! I am now working part time in a store which sells NZ made merino clothes. So I get to spend my work time fondling lovely merino, and of course I have to wear it too.  I really really really love that! At least when I do eventually finish my Nougat it will look lovely with my new merino cardy and shrug!

Oh, and I had a really hilarious 15 minutes of fame last week when I got press ganged into dressing up as though I were going to the races to illustrate a story for the paper on Melbourne Cup day. I was on the front page. My name was printed. And not even my parents recognised me!  Best comment was from Georgia, who showed the paper to her friends at school, and they didn't believe it was me.  When I asked why, she said "Because they've met you".  Um, yeah, I don't look like this EVER.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Red wine and roses...

..usually go very well together, except when a glass of the red wine in question gets knocked over and stains a pile of cream coloured fabric onto which you have just stencilled the roses. Fortunately google had a remedy which utilized stuff I had at home and the resulting stains became so faint that in the end I decided to leave them.  I did swear a bit though.

Anyway, I don't think I've shown any of this project.  It's something I can do with hordes of kids around, so I made good progress over the holidays.  I have always loved this Alabama Chanin wrap top, and having the skills required to create the pattern meant it was easy to make one of my own.

I'm very happy with the front, but I think I could improve the fit at the back.  It's a little loose around the waist.  Next time (of course there will be a next time, there always is) I will probably deepen the armholes slightly and I may take in the CB a little.  Or not, looser clothes are comfy, and leave room for the layers needed for a large part of the year and these 100% cotton knit garments give with wear, and the armhole may well not need adjustment.

And now it's time to panic because I do not have my next Alabama Chanin project lined up, and I get pretty antsy without one on the go at all times!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Slow progress on the Nougat

I'm proceeding with all the pace of a turtle stampeding through peanut butter at the moment. I'm posting this mostly because I really really want to get that "Why yes, I have had five children, how can you tell?" midriff shot off the top of the page!

My Nougat currently looks like this. Front bodice panels all joined apart from the centre, nothing pressed. sorry for the wonky angle, I clearly can't hold a camera straight.

You can see that I've done away with the waist seam.  I'm not keen on waist seams, and figured that I could probably align the bodice and yoke pieces and eliminate it.  They look like this.

One minor problem I've found with this pattern is that some of them didn't match.  The side seam on bodice and yoke didn't match.  This was very easy to fix, and no big deal.  (I just added to the bodice seam line to compensate.) Over the length of an entire waistline you'd just ease in the tiny bit extra, but in such a short panel length it would be less straightforward.

I mentioned in my last post that I'd lower the waistline.  I did it like this. I drew a line perpendicular to the centre front, starting at the waistline (because that was where the lines I'd be crossing seemed easiest to alter) traced the bodice to that line, then slid the paper up 1.5cm and traced the bottom.  Then I had to true the lines and make sure that panels would meet at the seam lines. With all the panel seam lines this required a bit of care and attention, but worked just fine. I did one more toile to check, but didn't take a pic of it on me.  It was perfect.

There is one other problem with the pattern that I have found.  The yoke pieces for the back are labelled E1-4, and they should be E4-1, if that makes sense. As far as I can tell the pattern instructions have them correctly labelled, but the pattern sheet has them mislabelled. They work perfectly, and the only problem is that if you are using two different fabrics the "Fabric A" and "Fabric B" labels are transposed.  I really don't want to be negative about this pattern.  It is a gorgeous, complex,  pattern, and these are incredibly minor issues.  I'm mentioning them only as feedback to AnaJan and just in case anyone reading this finds them helpful.

Here are two of the many, many, many things causing me delays. Keely's daughter bought a formal dress online, which arrived on Tuesday for a Saturday formal.  It needed altering, and they had me on standby!  Keely is on a very very short list of people who'd get 10+ hours of my time and expertise with that tight a deadline! they came over with the dress on Wednesday so I could start, then Thursday with shoes to mark the hem, then Friday to collect. PHEW!

The bodice was too long, and needed a simple reduction in length at the shoulder. Easy. Apart from this.

I needed to take off the beads, take up the shoulder, and resew them.  In one of my prouder moments I thought of pressing press'n'seal onto the beads and marking where they were.

Then after the shoulder alteration I just sewed them back on through the press'n'seal, which pulls out leaving no residue. Easy!

And this is why I didn't get much done in the last couple of days.  Georgia is making herself a quilt, and needs technical assistance from Mum.  My daughter is sewing. My dress can wait :-)

Oh, and it's school holidays so I get interrupted approximately every five minutes with requests for snacks, meals, clean clothes, missing item location services, bathroom assistance, permission/money for outings,  mediation, entertainment....