Thursday, 7 August 2014

The authentic Cinderella

The arrival of the August Burda magazine in my letter box the other day quickly made me realise that not only had July slipped by in blur of sickness, lethargy and general busyness, but I hadn't made a project from either the June or July issues of Burda! Even worse is that I have actually traced out the patterns from each, but haven't got as far as actually making them - but the good thing with self imposed challenges that it matters to no one else if I'm a little late.

My sewing room is now pretty much completely deconstructed and all that remains in there is my sewing desk with my machines and a box of fabrics and notions I think I'll need frequently. The rest of my sewing stuff is stored at my parents house - an hour and a half away so I need to get organised with my projects now! My sewing room is now a shared sewing space and children's playroom - a recipe for disaster I'm sure. But to sell our house we had to turn the kid's playroom back into a fourth bedroom so it's for a good reason even if it is annoying to have my sewing supplies so spread about the place.

Of course there has been sewing though - birthday party dresses for my social butterfly, as well as a dress up costume for Anna's school Education Week book character parade. I have to admit to being pretty excited about sewing a costume for the dress up parade, because I have fond memories of my parents getting very creative with costumes for me as a child. I tried to talk her into a cool or quirky character, but unfortunately for the kindergarten set it seems that Disney characters rule the day.

Anna demanded a Cinderella dress - not just any Cinderella dress though, it had to be a faithful reproduction of her Golden Book version. The ones available for purchase just weren't good enough for Anna's liking because they weren't authentic enough! So instead I spent just as much money on ice blue and white satin to make this:

Happily though Anna really loves it and it is better quality than the costumes available in the stores - those were so plasticky they looked like they would spontaneously combust! 

My version met with approval because the skirt is full length and very full - look at it twirl:

I got another tick for making the waistband at the centre front come down in a point and not straight across, which was very important:

Although I did get a little reprimand for adding that trim to the neckline and princess seams because it wasn't on the picture in her book.

And the pouffy hip thingies are made of white satin to match the sleeves, and not of tulle like the ones we saw in the shop:

I wasn't sure how to make those hip things, so in the end I just made them a rectangle the full width of the fabric with rounded edges, and then just folded it and pleated it to fit the waist (leaving a little gap in the front of course!). Seems to work I think.

Of course I had to make the black choker necklace and headband to complete the outfit:

All in all I think someone really enjoyed their day as a princess!

Very handily I managed to find a girls dress sewing pattern in my stash that was perfectly designed for this style, although it wasn't a costume pattern. Sewing was rather fiddly dealing with all that slippery fabric and trying to get my hands in small spaces like the sleeve head and hem. Annoyingly the fabric puckered a little bit even though I used a sharps needle, which is most obvious at the neckline, but it's only a dress up costume so I can live with it.

Now to get on with some sewing for me! I've got a few fabrics and patterns out so it's time to get productive.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Fabric Stash, refined

Thanks everyone for the great tips on pants fitting - it's all very useful which I will have to try out. I shouldn't be surprised that my pants had such huge fitting issues since I've never really put any effort into sorting them out and I don't have a particularly easy body shape to fit. I have watched others blogged their slow and steady progress towards pants fitting nirvana, now I guess I need to find the energy to do the same.

Not this week though, I've come down with the 'flu and have taken up a position on the lounge under a fluffy blanket drinking lemon and ginger tea. But last weekend before getting sick I started dismantling my sewing room so we can move the kids playroom into it and then the playroom will revert back to being a bedroom when we sell the house.

Some of you may remember when I posted a picture of my fabric stash - some people IRL still mention it to me so I know it was memorable! This is how it looked a few months back before I started the Great Fabric Stash Refinement (aka a massive cull):

On Sunday I took this photo:

Look Jane - there's that red and white cotton sateen from Spotlight from the New Look 6968 pattern cover peeking out!
Astonishing, right? I managed to further cull fabrics by holding each piece trying to visualise it made up into something and being honest with myself as to whether I would ever wear something made from it. And the answer to a lot of the prints and colours in my stash was a surprising no, and so a third big bag which has some really nice, quality fabrics will also go out to the Fabric Cave shortly:

So what has happened to the rest? You didn't think I had gotten rid of all that fabric did you? The answer is that 24 jumbo size vacuum space saver bags later, my stash is now packed and ready to go into storage before our upcoming house sale:

Even when I've vacuumed all the air out and shrunk those bags down as much as possible, it's still an impressive pile (which of course fell over a few seconds before I took this photo):

To be totally honest though, this isn't my full stash in those space saver bags. There is still a big bag of fabric scraps to deal with, two boxes of UFOs/refashions, lengths of curtain lining and these rolls of fabric too:

Those fabrics still left on the shelving I've kept out with the intentions of sewing them in the next 6 months or so. No particular projects in mind, just a general desire to use the fabric - sort of sewing with half a plan I guess! I can still access the fabrics in storage but it will take some pre-planning since my parents live over an hour away. And yes, I'm aware that the small amount of fabric I've kept out is actually larger than some people's entire stashes!

But overall my stash is now greatly reduced and I'm actually feeling good about that. I've never really felt any guilt about my fabric stash, mainly because I had the space to store it, I had the money to purchase it, and I do use stash fabrics frequently. Plus I really liked being able to find an appropriate fabric in my stash no matter the project, and I cannot recall the last time I had to purchase fabric particularly for a project for myself. But I must admit that while I was packing this all up I was feeling slightly overwhelmed and a little bit disgusted at my greedy hoard of fabrics! And questioning whether we really should sell our house and move.....

Anyway I've shared this with you all as a public service - for those of you with a small but growing stash you can take comfort that you're not as bad as me yet! And for those of you with a sizeable stash too, well at least you know you're not alone. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

When a TNT is no longer your friend.....

I'm slowly coming around to the idea of tried and true (TNT) pattern. I own so many patterns that I like using a different one each time and I do have my Burda challenge which also means using a new pattern each month, but I do see the value in using a pattern that you've got the fitting issues worked out and know the finished garment will fit without having to make a muslin. And of course it doesn't mean making the same thing over and over again - you just have to see the amazing variety of dresses that Carolyn over at Diary of  a Sewing Fanatic has made from her TNT dress pattern as proof of that.

New Look 6968 is my favourite pattern for a fitted sheath dress - I can't believe it's now OOP because it really is a great pattern. The waistline seam means I can get a perfect fit on my swayback and pear shape, and it has a number of different  neckline and sleeve variations as well. I've made it five times already (from left to right, here, here, here, here and a version not shown here), and since I own some red and white fabric exactly like view D on the envelope I'll probably make it again! In fact if you google New Look 6968 my happy face features quite prominently in the results.

Burda 11/2012 #124 is my go to pattern for an a-line skirt - simple but with interesting details such as welt pockets on the front and a topstitched centre front seam. I've made it in denim, velveteen, cotton drill and cotton sateen, and I still wear all the versions quite regularly:

And I thought that Burda 10/2013 #127 going to become my TNT for my achilles heel - a perfect pants pattern. I've made it three times so far, and even though I don't particularly sewing or even wearing pants I quite like these:

The first time I made this pattern in a cotton linen, it was very baggy to begin with and stretched out terribly, meaning the waistline and crotch hung very low. The second time I made them into shorts using a stretch cotton drill that didn't stretch out so the pants fit well but a bit too high waisted for my liking. Third time lucky with some gorgeous cotton from Tessuti and the fit is pretty good, and the fabric wears well.

So when I had a recent girls night out planned in wild and windy weather (ie not dress wearing weather) and Pattern Review were having their pants competition I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone and make this pattern in a dressier fabric, with slim legs, ankle length and exposed metal zips at the hem. And I figured I'd be able to get this done two nights before the night out and the competition closed.

Well the sewing gods decided to teach me a lesson because this is what happened:

Way too much excess fabric there in the back legs that looks really bad (but probably no different to RTW pants though!). I've read somewhere that the wrinkles in clothes point to the problem - clearly my problem is the way the pant legs are hanging from my saddlebag thighs, although the front doesn't look too tight:

Actually when I look closely at the photo above I can see the fabric at the back rippling at those inside leg seams. I pinned the excess fabric in a long dart at the top of my thigh on my left leg which makes the pant leg seem to straighten and sit much better:

A change like this really needs to be done pre cutting out the pattern though because the excess taken out needs to be distributed around the pant leg. But the danger in over-fitting is creating a pair of pants that you can't bend or sit in. Since I don't walk around stiffly like robots it is a problem and nor do I stand posing like a model all day, I do need some ease there but I don't want too much either - I'm not sure I know how to fix this problem to be honest. The fabric I used is a metallic jacquard, which is quite firm with no stretch so I don't think I will be able to get such a close fit in a fabric without stretch. It's a pity because it's a fabric that's been in my stash for a long time just waiting for the right use to come along, and now I've wasted it on this wadder.

I think this fabric sits differently to the cotton versions I've made previously, which draped better and hid this problem which is why I was fooled that this pattern was really good on me. But I've come to the conclusion that this pattern is not my TNT, and it's back to the drawing board for the perfect pants pattern. Luckily I have a two day course on pants fitting in October at the ASG sewing convention so (maybe) I'll get there in the end I hope. I'm just definitely not there yet!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Navy blue polka dot skirt: Burda 3/2010 #106

How I wish I could come up with witty or even mildly interesting blog post titles! But at least you literally know what you're going to get from one of my blog posts......

So, as my blog title suggests clearly states, I've made a skirt. In navy blue polka dot cotton. From a Burda pattern. Surprise!


I actually made this at my sewing weekend away in May, but just haven't got around to taking a photo of it as yet. Taking photos for this skirt yesterday afternoon was quite difficult too because it was blowing a gale outside even though it was bright sunshine, so I've had to settle for some rather ordinary indoor photographs in front of a freshly painted wall (ignore the skirting boards though - they're next to be painted) in my bedroom where my beloved shoe cupboard used to be (those indents in the carpet). As part of our decluttering we've dismantled it, I've thrown out a good many pairs of worn out shoes and packed the rest into my cupboard. I can't wait to move - one of the things I'm looking for in the next place is a nice big walk in robe!

Anyway, this is a pencil skirt pattern from a 2010 issue of Burda that I had overlooked at the time but found it recently when I was looking for a pencil skirt pattern . This doesn't seem to be available for download on the Burda Style website, but the pattern looks like this:


The navy blue polka dot fabric is a 100% cotton that I bought online from back in March that was quite stiff much quilting fabric. After I prewashed the fabric, it lost some of the glossiness but not the stiffness, which actually worked ok for a fitted skirt like this but probably wouldn't be so great for other types of clothing unless you wanted some stiffness and volume to it. I made the welt pockets in a white cotton sateen to make them stand out - they look much larger than the pattern drawing suggest but I'm pretty sure I followed Burda's instructions for them.

It's supposed to have a fly front zipper at the centre front but I changed this to an invisible zip at the side purely because I forgot to take a normal zipper away with me on the weekend and I really wanted to finish it that weekend. But it turns out that was actually a stroke of fortune because according to the others who have made this skirt finishing the waistband with a facing and a fly front zipper was a bit awkward (see KBenco's post on how she dealt with it). In the end I just lined this to the finished edge, and sewed the waistline seam using some twill tape that Sharon graciously gifted to me on the weekend because I didn't have any of that with me at the time either.


The back is cut on the fold so no pesky pattern matching with the polka dots was required,and I chose to leave off the welt pockets on the back view:


And I think I did a pretty good job almost matching the polka dots at the side seams:


But now for the moment of truth - this skirt might look ok in these photos, but it is unwearable at the moment. I should have taken these photos 2 months ago when I made it, because it fitted perfectly then but unfortunately I've put on a few kilos since them due to my normal winter weight gain (and not all related to a fondness for rich self saucing puddings and a preference for inactivity!) and now the skirt is way too tight to wear.

I don't think the weight gain is noticeable, but the weight has gone straight to my hips and thighs which is typical for a pear shape body, and now the skirt slides upward and twists around with each and every step I take.  In fact even just posing for these photos I had to keep tugging the skirt down, and you can see in a few photos the horizontal wrinkles across the front indicating that it's too small.


I suppose I could let out all the seams and hope that I could make it fit. Or I could just wait until spring or early summer and hope my weight drops back as it usually does! I fully lined this skirt so that I could wear it to work and casually in winter (ie over nude pantyhose), and even had some outfit ideas lined up:

red wool crepe jacket made from , red Nine West slingbacks
red cardigan from Target, red flats from Nine West
navy blue Cue blazer, red Nine West slingbacks
 Hmmm, perhaps I should dust off my runners and do some exercise so I can fit into this skirt! (And clean the dust off my camera lens too - those white bits of fluff aren't actually on the carpet despite how bad it looks in the above photo!)

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Party season

I don't think my social life has ever been this busy - I have a party to attend every weekend this month and next, and in fact this weekend I went to a party both on Saturday and Sunday. Sadly I'm not talking about swish cocktail soirees or black tie events for which I need to sew some beautiful party dresses, but rather six year old birthday parties! We are well into the birthday party season around here, and every child in Anna's class seems to be invited to each of these parties, which is very nice and inclusive but it means that these parties are huge and very loud, energetic and tiring. The kids aren't at an age yet where you can do the drop off and run thing, especially since none of these parties are in people's homes but rather at indoor play centres or other party venues so at the end of the three hour or so parties there are a lot of parents gripping their coffee cups with tired looks on their faces!

Anna and I have had many discussions (aka arguments) about appropriate clothing to wear to these parties - it has turned quite cold here in Sydney lately and yet all she wants to wear her summer dresses which are now way too short thanks to a growth spurt that seems to have occurred unnoticed by us all. So after Saturday's discussion about what to wear which involved threats of not going to the party if something more appropriate wasn't worn, I promised to make her a new dress that night if she promised to wear it to Sunday's party. Deal.


I let her pick the fabric, a purple and grey knit 4 way stretch knit from The Fabric Store which is a lovely soft knit with great recovery although it was one of those knits that curls at the edges when cut which was very annoying to press flat and sew. I chose the pattern - a simple and sensible dress from the Japanese sewing pattern book from the "Fashionable Dress for Girls" book (ISBN 978-4-529-04816-3), which I've used before for these very cute puffy pocket shorts when she was just a little (but still highly spirited) toddler.


This post has details about where to buy Japanese sewing books and a mini review if you're interested.

The dress has sleeves and is knee length, which when worn with stocking or leggings is perfect for Sydney's version of winter (cold, but not really when compared with other places!). And the stretch factor is perfect for meeting all the needs of a bendy and wiggly 5 year old. It took less than two hours to make, including tracing the pattern out, so it's quite a simple project if you know what you're doing - those instructions in Japanese are as helpful as those in Burda (although there are little diagrams so they are still easier to understand than Burda!).

I made the pattern for 120cm height and the fit is perfect - I find these Japanese sewing patterns and others that do patterns based on height like Ottobre and Burda are perfect fit for Anna's tall and slim frame, much better than the commercial sewing patterns that base their sizes on chest measurements. The only changes I made were to add a narrow elastic band around the waistline instead of sewing a trim around the dropped waist level to give the dress a bit of shape. Check out that stripes matching at the side seam - you can barely see the seam line (but don't look too closely at that not so straight hem though!):


The pattern has a bound neckline with a keyhole opening at the back, but I left this off purely because I was too lazy to fiddle about with that in a knit fabric, plus I figured (hoped) that a neckline made of 4 way stretch knit would be ok without it. It is a bit of tight stretch over her head but it works.


You might also be thinking that I left off those gathers at the front neckline? Well, they are there - I just didn't notice until I was taking these photos that Anna had the dress on backwards. She might have kept her part of our deal to wear the dress, but she still did it her own way!


And now I've probably set myself up for more last minute sewing sessions, because with another 5 birthday parties in the next 5 weeks she'll probably now want a new dress each time!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Cull and purge

Wow, has it really been 2 weeks since I've posted some ramblings on here? I wish I had a good reason, such as having a vacation to some exotic locale, but unfortunately its just been a case of real life busyness.

Anna had a school athletics carnival last week that I had to sew a plain green tshirt for her to wear because it turns out to be impossible to find one to buy when I needed one.  Luckily kids clothes don't take too long to make! I volunteered to help coordinate on the day and I was in charge of the sack races - I tell you after a day of herding small children into sacks larger than they are for many races I was as exhausted as if I was doing the jumping around! But it was a hot sunny winter's day and loads of fun.

Anna's school also had a school fete as their major fundraising activity which I also volunteered to help. I didn't actually make anything this year because so far I've kept my sewing talents a secret for fear of being inundated with requests, but I was still pretty busy on the day.

We've also been painting and wallpapering our house to hopefully sell in a few months time, which has also required massive amounts of purging and decluttering. Practically every week I've taken several bags worth of stuff to the op shop and yet there is still more! Living here for 11 years has given us plenty of time to accumulate way too much stuff.

I've also been trying to clean up my sewing room because it's a bit out of control at the moment and also because I'll be packing up my sewing room before we sell so I need to refine the stash further. Even though I took a big bag to the Fabric Cave in March and I've now managed to cull another huge bag of fabrics to donate there is hardly a noticeable dent in my stash at all! But just for the record, here is the bag of fabric that is going out:

Now to actually sew something from my stash instead of just giving it away!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Pattern Review Featured Member! and old school Burda: 3/2008 #114 skirt

For many years sewing for me was a solitary hobby - I didn't know anyone that sewed and when I was younger I was in fact rather embarrassed to admit that I sewed my own clothes! Which is why it's really great these days that not only do I know loads of like-minded sewists in real life and on-line, but sewing isn't a solitary thing anymore since I sew with the lovely Australia Sewing Guild ladies which has been immensely helpful in expanding my skills and shop with the Sydney Spoolettes (for which I need no assistance or encouragement but it is fun sharing the guilt!).

Nor am I embarrassed anymore to admit that I sew my own clothes either, in fact I'm rather proud to be part of this great community of creative and skilled people. So it is extremely flattering to be recognised first in Burda Style magazine and now by Pattern Review as their current featured member. The Pattern Review thing came completely out of the blue and was really something I wasn't expecting - there are so many members doing wonderful things and I've really only been active in the last year after being a very slack member for many years. So thank you Pattern Review!

Ok, enough showing off from me I think - on to my latest creation. Would you believe that until a few months ago I hadn't ever owned a piece of jungle print fabric or RTW garment or even an accessory? Even Anna managed to rock a leopard print faux fur jacket when she was just two years old!

But that might all be about to change with my latest skirt:

This is made from yet another Burda magazine, this time quite an old issue - 3/2008 #114:

I bought this leopard print fabric from back in March, and it is quite a stiff cotton, a bit like quilting fabric which is the perfect weight for a skirt. The fabric faded quite a lot after the first wash, which at first annoyed me, but now I think the faded, worn in look makes this skirt look a bit more casual and less va va voom which is what I traditionally think of when I think animal print.

The pattern is really simple - a pegged skirt with no walking vents so it's quite fitted but still reasonably ok to walk in, with angled pleats at the waist to give a slight tulip shape, although those details are pretty much lost in this busy print. The pleats at the front don't puff out too much, so the side view is still quite streamlined:

It has a wide waistband and a centre back zip which I used an invisible zip because that's the easiest and neatest looking finish:

The pockets are nice and deep which is useful not only for standing around in a slouchy pose whilst taking photos of the side of the road while motorists drive past staring at you, but also for carrying all the bits and pieces that end up in the pockets of a mum to a little boy - rocks, feathers, snotty tissues and the like!

I took these photos about 2 weeks ago when we were still having extremely warm weather which is why I'm dressed like it's summer and not winter! But I can see this skirt being quite versatile, perhaps with a chunky polo neck jumper and opaque tights for a winter outfit, or keeping it simple with my denim jacket which is also a Burda pattern - (4/2009#116) which I made back in 2011 and still wear all the time:

So if you have this issue of Burda I can thoroughly recommend digging it out to make this skirt. It has the streamlined look of a pencil skirt with that added extra casualness and quirkiness of the angled pleats and deeply curved pockets on the side front. If you want to wear a pencil skirt style but don't want to feel like like you're wearing office wear, then this is the perfect skirt style.

And happily I can report that we are now experiencing proper winter, albeit Sydney style - no frost, snow or extreme cold temperatures of course, but cold enough to finally get out some lovely wool and tweed and make some winter clothes.