Monday, 30 June 2008

First maternity dress: Vogue 2818

Thanks everyone for your helpful suggestions regarding maternity patterns and clothes - I feel lucky to be able to sew and to get advice from others so I know I'll get through this pretty well. Congratulations to your assistant Vicki, although I hope everything is alright with a 9 week early baby. If my baby comes out 9 weeks early it will come home to a construction zone - have I mentioned that we're about to demolish half of our house and rebuild? It'll be great when it's all done, but crazy timing I know!

I was especially interested in the Patrones and Ottobre magazines, although I can't say I've ever seen them here in Australia and it's not as if enough I don't waste, ahem, invest enough money in BWOF magazines! I might have to ebay trawl, although I haven't ebayed for over a year since I got a little out of control a way back and self imposed a ban.

Anyway I thought I would use up one of the maternity patterns since I had already purchased it, and so I made View D of the Vogue pattern, which is the ¾ quarter sleeve empire line dress pictured in the centre in black. I used a beautiful wool crepe I had in the stash (of course in black, again I am a sheep!), and fully lined the dress because in typical Vogue style the pattern is designed for only the bodice to be self lined and I don't like the static that comes from pantyhose rubbing against fabric. Because I didn’t use a fabric with moderate stretch as required by the pattern, I added a bit of extra ease to the bodice, and about 5cm extra width to the front skirt panel, and I made a few pleats to accommodate the extra width. Overall I’m very pleased with this dress, it’s so comfortable and looks very elegant, in an austere “I’m oh so serious” way. It was also very simple to make, I cut it out and finished sewing it in one afternoon, so I can see a few more versions in my near future, in more colourful fabrics and some lightweight fabric for summer.


The fabric is a pure black, I just lightened the photo a bit so you can see the details (photographing black is very difficult I find). And the dress goes very well with these black and white print shoes, which have a low sturdy heel, are very comfy and are still very wearable. I know I don’t look very pregnant in this photo, even though I’m feeling larger and round in the tummy since all my existing clothes (which I admit are slim fitting) are too snug now, and I’m sure I’m like this:
But if I adopt the infamous Nicole Kidman pose it’s a different story:

Anyway I wore this to work and got quite a few compliments on the new dress, so I’m extremely happy with my first real maternity dress!

My morning sickness seems to have subsided (although I still gag when brushing my teeth), and I have a bit more energy so things are looking up. Which is good, because I think I have consumed my weight in Arnotts milk arrowroot biscuits in the last three months combatting nausea.....

Friday, 27 June 2008

maternity sewing patterns: why are they so lame?

Whoa, I stepped away from my computer for a few days only to come back to all your lovely congratulations on the bub news. Thank you kindly, they are warmly received indeed! Although I was a bit freaked out by Jean C's description of the new hair line between my navel and below that I have to look forward to, but greatly cheered up by Vicki's revelation that high heels and pregnancy aren't entirely incompatible - I feel so underdressed in flats, particularly if I'm wearing a skirt or a dress, so I'll be giving them up reluctantly and only when the time comes.

And Myra, I will definately be checking out vintage maternity patterns because what's on offer in the current pattern catalogues is a little, well lacking IMO. They've only slightly improved from the horrible 1980s style that lsaspacey quite rightly pointed out. Since both Spotlight and Lincraft had sales on the sewing patterns recently, I moseyed on down there to check out the offerings for maternity wear. Hardly anything is on offer, with each pattern company only having a few patterns to begin with, and what is available are generally casual style clothing such as elastic waist pants and big tent style dresses and shirts with naff ties in the back to give shape. I know that being pregnant means I am going to have change my style, ie less structured and fitted clothing to more loose and comfortable clothes, I still have to go to work in a corporate environment and I won’t be sacrificing too much personal style (well at least until I'm 7 or 8 months when all bets are off!)

I did pick up two patterns that have potential: Vogue 2818 which is a corporate wardrobe type pattern in very simple but elegant style and Simplicity 4704, which has a nice shirt and a flirty style skirt and dress as well.












And I have these vintage patterns already in the stash which I will be putting to good use:















Thankfully, lots of patterns of late have been in the empire line / smock / baby doll dress style and cropped swing style jackets which are perfect for adapting to maternity wear, such as this jacket from BWOF 3/08:













And this dress from BWOF 4/08:













And these low cut pants with an elastic waist instead of fabric, and the infamous 'Duro' dress with a bit extra fabric pleated across the front:














So all in all I have many many options to make some stylish maternity wear, which I coupled with a big stash of nice casual maternity clothes from a friend who has finished her family and t-shirts and knit tops in the smock / baby doll style that I bought cheaply in the sales, I should get through this without having to purchase too much overpriced maternity clothes.

As for baby clothes, well I'm not finding out what I'm having, plus the baby will be born in the middle of summer so it will probably spend the first month or two in a singlet and muslin wrap, so baby clothes can wait - it's all about me before it comes along and takes over my life!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Burda Wof 9/2007 dress 121: the infamous jumper dress

I finally have finished another BWOF pattern – the pinafore dress from the 9/07 magazine. I have seen so many great versions out there on the internets, and I really love the striped versions done by the productive sewists over at the Slapdash Sewist and Miss Celie’s Pants posted at Pattern Review. Hmmm, I could have been that adventurist and individual, but I happened to have some beautifully soft cotton jersey in a grey charcoal left over from the baby ninja clothes I made for a friend a while back, so my finished dress pretty much looks exactly like the pattern photo! I’ve gotta stop being so influenced by the pattern envelope/photo (I am not a sheep, I am not a sheep……), but I did manage to use the stash so that makes up for it.


I decided that this dress would be ideal at this point in time because I am in fact pregnant and am starting to need some stretchy clothes already at 3 months! So to make sure this dress would last me and my swelling belly the rest of winter and early spring (when I’ll be 6 months preggo), I added a bit extra width to the front dress panel and made those pleats a little deeper. Actually the volume around the front is hiding my little paunch, which is good because I'm at that in between stage of looking chubby as opposed to pregnant.

I must say that I love this dress and may make another version in a more colourful fabric to wear in spring / summer over short sleeved tops. I did originally make the bodice in a size larger than I normally wear, in case my bra size increases (here’s hoping) as I’ve heard, which is why I think it looks a little large at this stage and the waist band is a bit of a ‘w’ shape rather than being straight around the middle. But I’m sure I’ll grow into to it in no time!

So there you have my happy news, although I can’t say the last three months have been delightful. I have been unbelievably tired and suffering morning sickness quite a lot, which is all quite normal and I expected it, but I did not expect to be feeling nauseous all day long nearly every day, or that things like brushing my teeth or bad smells would make me retch, or that my skin would not only break out but in weird places like my neck and hairline, or that my finger nails would grow into talons and my hair would grow so much (and not just the hair on my head either, my legs look like woolly mammoths! Sorry, probably too much info…). But I guess that pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing is a journey of surprises and much learning, so I’d best get used to it I guess.

And if you look closely, I am wearing a pair of flat shoes that I recently purchased in the half yearly sales (see Vicki, you are my guiding light!). Quite a few people have been telling me with delight that I won’t be able to totter around on heels for much longer, and although it was difficult I managed to find two pairs of half decent flat shoes from Mollini for the bargain price of $120 for both.

I’ll leave you with a totally unnecessary shot of Oscar the wonderdog, who hasn’t been in any photos of late despite him trying his best to get in the way. This photo was taken in the far back corner of the garden which is his domain (see the deflated ball in the background?) so it’s only fair.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Sloper Patterns

Thanks all for your lovely comments on the shirts I made or refashioned from men's shirts. The ones in the last post are all that I have completed so far, but I have a few others that have been pulled apart and are currently in little piles awaiting re-cutting and sewing. I am determined not to let them become UFOs, but I seem to be good at doing that......

Anyway in response to a few questions raised in comments or emails to me on the last post, what I referred to as a 'block' pattern is also known as a 'sloper' pattern. I'm sure many of you know this, but for those that asked, a block/sloper is just a basic fitting pattern that you draft up according to your own measurments, and then add and alter for all the details that make up a garment.

Now that sounds harder than it actually is, because the sewing pattern companies actually have a basic fitting pattern that can be used as a base for re-drafting according to your own measurments. At the pattern drafting course I did at an evening college, we used Vogue 1004:


From that basic pattern, I added extra width to the hips, changed the darts according to my waist and bust measurments, narrowed the shoulders - all the fitting modifications you would normally do to a ready to use pattern, except that this basic pattern forms the base for either making your own patterns, or making basic clothing like pencil skirts.

Since I'm no skilled pattern drafter or fashion designer, I've only used my sloper/block patterns to make basic clothing items like pencil skirts, a-line skirts and the shirts I showed in my last post. Using the block pattern, I added details such as cuffs, collar + stand and centre front button band, by using pattern pieces from other favourite patterns, just drafting them to fit the block pattern.

The real benefits of using a personalised sloper/block pattern is that you can be sure of the fit, but for me it does mean quite basic, simple pieces of clothing, which sometimes is what you want. But even though I have sloper/block patterns, I still like trying out new patterns and styles and hence I keep buying patterns......

Anyway, the weekend is only a few hours away and I'm planning to finish the hem on one dress that I made during the week, and sew up another that I cut out and interfaced, so hopefully next week I'll have some pretty pictures for you!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Wearing what I sew: revisited

When I did all those posts last month documenting what I wore to work each day, I admitted that I deliberately chose to wear clothes I had made, which resulted in me having a 85% rate of made clothes to RTW clothes worn. To test it out, I picked another random week (two weeks ago actually, I’m a bit slow at posting at the moment), to see how I really would go.

Well here’s the results:



Monday I wore a black RTW pants suit, with a shirt I made from my block pattern in a black stretch cotton, with fine silver and grey stripes. I quite like it because it has a great fit and I like the colours, but one of my (male) colleagues remarked that I looked like a gangster. Good thing I decided to leave the fedora and black/white wing shoes at home that day!







Tuesday I wore a navy blue RTW skirt suit, with a shirt I refashioned from a new man’s shirt. I bought this lovely 100% cotton shirt in a light blue with white and narrow dark blue stripes from a menswear store that was selling them extremely cheaply (much cheaper than womenswear even though a woman’s shirt has at least 30 – 40% less fabric). I took it apart at the seams, cut out new pieces from my shirt block pattern, cutting the front out so as to keep the centre front band as is so I wouldn’t have to re-do the buttons and buttonholes. It came together very quickly and again fits really well because I used the block pattern. Here is a photo taken at home because I forgot to do one at work earlier that day.

Wednesday I wore a sleeveless black wool dress made in the Vogue 8280 knock off of the Roland Mouret ‘galaxy’ dress which I made quite some time ago, over a pink shirt that I had made in Bangkok earlier this year when I was there. This photo is taken in front of my office building, which is one of the earliest buildings in Sydney and is a beautiful sandstone building. My wonderful photographer is a colleague Ann, who has a very interesting photo blog of Sydney if you’re interested in seeing Sydney from a different perspective.





Thursday I wore the Burda WoF skirt suit I posted about previously, with a RTW boatneck knit top in a pale pink. (This is the previous photo I took of the outfit, I didn’t retake one for this outfit).













Friday I wore a grey pinstripe RTW pants suit, with a white cotton tuxedo shirt I refashioned from one of my husband’s old shirts. Because he grew up in rural NSW, he went to a lot of B&S balls (country dances where single men and women go to get very drunk) when he was a young fella, and he had this tuxedo shirt that his gran had customized by sewing tartan sleeves on! Since he no longer wore it, I appropriated it and replaced the tartan sleeves and tuxedo collar with a standard collar using another of his white business shirts that he no longer wore, took it apart and cut it out again using my block pattern and again keeping the front intact so I wouldn’t have to redo the buttons and button holes.

So from 15 garments worn to work that week, I had made/refashioned 6, a paltry 40%!! Oh dear, that’s pretty bad, but at least a day doesn’t usually go by without me having worn at least one thing that I had made. And this week is proof that a TNT pattern, or in my case the block pattern I created after the pattern making course I did, is worth it’s weight in gold!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Another UFO brought home to roost

I am trying to keep my pledge to myself to finish one UFO for every new garment made, so here is the latest UFO to leave the cupboard of limbo and make it into the wardrobe of wear.....

This is a wool skirt with a wide yoke waist band made from Simplicity 4599, which I have used quite a few times (including, true to my form, another UFO!) so it is practically a TNT pattern. Because the skirt is cut partly on the bias due to the curve in the skirt, and the fabric is quite heavy, I let it hang so that the bias could drop before I hemmed it. And well, it hung for a good 12 months - I had to be sure the bias had fully dropped you see!





No, the real problem was that it looked a bit blah. I love the cornflower blue colour, and the wool is soft and not itchy at all, but it was lacking a certain something that would have otherwise compelled me to finish it. And then when I was cleaning out some papers (ahem, crap) in the study I came across this picture I had ripped out of a magazine who knows when:


The skirt is by a label called Ashui, which retailed for $169. With that for inspiration I finished the hem, sewed on an 8cm wide band made from red polka dot cotton, randomly sewed on some white buttons I had picked up in a op shop somewhere and the skirt was fit for wear.
The hem looks a little crooked in the photo above, but it is because I pulled it taut whilst sewing so it gets a rippled effect when I'm wearing it, but wouldn't sit very flat for this photo.

So anyway, this weekend just past was another long weekend here in Australia, celebrating the Queen's birthday. Yes, that would be the Queen of England, and no, it's not even her birthday but what can I say, we're Australians and if the government tried to cancel a public holiday there would probably be a civil war. I didn't get any sewing done however, since I went up to Brisbane to visit the inlaws, but in true government employee fashion I have taken today (Tuesday) off work as a flex day, and so I hope to keep another of my pledges today: to improve my Burda WoF cost per make ratio!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

bric a brac

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments on my series of posts on wearing what I sew - how exhausting trying to take photos every day! But it was a good way to showcase my previous creations since I haven't been doing a great deal of sewing lately, time to get cracking on my winter wardrobe now that it is officially winter here in downtown Sydney.

To wrap a few things that came up in the comments from the last posts:

Karen asked to see my sewing space and machines and since you asked I will deliver! I have taken over one of our spare bedrooms that was once our study and sewing room but is now pretty much just my room! It's not huge, but it is a dedicated space that I can close the door to when it gets too messy.
In the photo above you can see my sewing machine on the right, a Brother PS-53 which is the basic model. This was given to me a few years ago as a christmas present from my parents, replacing the 35 year old machine my grandmother had given me that I had been using for at least the previous decade. I have been thinking about upgrading soon, a machine that does one step buttonholes sounds very appealing, but that's the only extra feature I really need. My overlocker is a Toyota, again a basic model given to me at another christmas from my parents which works fantastically and is quite easy to thread. Above the desk on the shelf are 1950s bakelite kitchen canisters which house my button collection, seperated into various colours. Hanging on the wall are my sloper patterns that I am slowly developing - a shirt, an A-line skirt and a pencil skirt so far. On the clipboards hanging on the wall next to my sewing machine is an illustrated to do list, to give me incentive and encouragement to finish things (doesn't work though!)
My sewing desk is an L shape that my husband and I built specifically to house my sewing machines and the computer. In the photo above you can see the left side of the desk, where the computer is, boxes of habadashery notions that I really need to find a better way to store, pattern making supplies wedged between the filing cabinet and the desk, and all those papers on top of the desk waiting for filing! You can also my very high tech and aesthetically pleasing thread catcher under my overlocker - yes that is a plastic bag sticky taped to the desk, but at least its from Lincraft!




















On the wall opposite the desk is a built in wardrobe that houses most of my stash (it has now spread into another wardrobe in the guest bedroom!), and UFO purgatory, ie all those unfinished garments hanging in there waiting their turn. And you can just see the cabinet that holds all my patterns in that I posted about here.

So there you have it - not an overly inspiring or pretty workspace, unlike this awesome room over at Chaletgirl's house. But really this room is only temporary, because we are about to undertake extensions and renovations to the house and when I get my permanent space I'll be decorating like crazy!

On to the next comment - Vicki has suggested, no nearly ordered that I increase my shoes to a "round" 100, even pointing on that the mid year sales are on. Oh Vicki, you are a wicked woman but you are totally correct, I shall be looking for bargains today at lunch as I've noticed that both Mollini and Wittners are advertising up to 50% off at the moment!

And finally, the the_lazymilliner tagged me for this game: revealing six things you don't know about me. Well this should be easy since I pretty much keep the blog sewing related, but thinking of 6 interesting things will be the challenge:

1. I am a town planner by profession. I'm sure that not many of you have come across a town planner before, since I am always asked what it is. Basically in previous jobs I was responsible for assessment of development proposals, and in my current role I work in policy setting out guidelines for what development can occur where. If you ever want to do work on your house you'll come across a town planner (I think they are known as municipal or city planners in the US).

2. My husband is Chinese, which you would have realised if you saw my post on our wedding photos. But here's something interesting, he is an Australian born Chinese, and so while he has a Chinese face, he's much taller than most Chinese and because he grew up out in the country he speaks with a very Australian accent which throws most people off when they first meet him! I have also adopted his surname (although I blog here under my maiden name), so I confuse people when I meet them too, especially if we've talked on the phone before meeting.

3. I ride a motorbike, and when I was younger I really wanted to be a motorcycle racer when I grew up. But a few accidents scared me out of that idea, and now I just ride on the weekends for fun. In fact, my whole family rides, and my mum got her licence after turning 40! I currently have a Honda 1000cc VTR, which if you don't know bikes is a pretty big sportsbike, which I like to ride really fast to outdo young men and their egos.....

4. I never cook dinner or shop for groceries, my husband does all that (because he loves it right!). I do like to bake though, and quite often make cakes and muffins but when it comes to cooking each night I just can't be bothered or inspired to do it. In fact if I'm alone and have to fend for myself, I usually will have sardines on toast or if I'm feeling fancy an omelet.

5. I am a hopeless knitter and terrible at crochet, not matter how much I want to be good at it. With my knitting my tension is way too tight, I am very slow and lose focus which results in added/decreased stitches by accident. With my crochet I'm really good at making chains, but that's about it.....

6. I suffer from mild insomnia and spend a few hours each night laying awake before I finally get to sleep. I use that time to think about what I'm going to sew next, what to wear the following day and general plans for world domination! I can't work out if I spend so much time thinking because I'm awake, or whether I'm awake because I'm thinking too much, but I've been that way since a little kid so I'm resigned to it.

Is everyone still with me? Such a wordy post I know, but soon back to regular posting. I've even finished one of my infamous UFOs to show you!

Monday, 2 June 2008

I wear what I sew part 5: Friday casual outfit

If you’ve been following these posts for the last few days, you would notice that I wear a lot of suits. Which I do, so that’s very observant of you! And thank you all for the lovely comments on the suits. But on Fridays, if I don’t have any meetings organised I like to dress a little more casually to fit in with every one else for a change (I’m usually quite overdressed in my office even though it is a corporate environment). However, I do struggle trying to find something appropriate for the office in the dressy casual category so I find dressing on a Friday always takes a lot longer than the usual suit and top combo. This is where laying out a week's worth of outfits like Carolyn does would certainly prove useful.

Last Friday I wore a paneled skirt which I morphed from Vogue 9625. I have made this is as a dress before, but here I used only the skirt part of the dress, added a narrow waistband and shaped two of the panels at the back instead of darts for fitting and voila, I have a paneled skirt. I’ve made this skirt a few times, as well as once for my mother, and it is very quick and easy to sew and only needing a variation in the number of panels to increase or decrease size.

The fabric is a wool (the scratchy type unfortunately), which is a lovely grey colour with fine black lines running through it. I cut the fabric on the bias to get some drape in the way the skirt would hang, and also to have the lines become a feature. And the skirt did drape in lovely folds, until I sewed a narrow hem and then it stood out and became more of an a-line skirt shape, but I still like it.


I’ve wore it to work with a RTW knit crossover top in a vibrant purple colour, with suede flat shoes in a matching colour with silver buckles, which were custom made in Vietnam when I was there earlier this year for the princely sum of $20!

The final tally for the working week is twelve made garments from fourteen worn garments, a grand total of 85%, which is pretty good but as I said previously I did make a concerted effort to select made clothes over RTW since I knew I was keeping score.

What else I discovered:

a) I wear a lot of skirts – this is because pants don’t look that great on my pear shaped figure, and I’m not good at making pants that fit so I don’t!
b) I should always line jackets, especially tailored jackets, they will wear better and probably longer too.
c) I should avoid polyester fabrics, even if the colour or print is great because it doesn’t sew or last as well as wool or other natural fibres
d) I have enough shoes to wear a different pair for 65 days straight, so I shouldn’t buy any more (but I probably will anyway…..)