Friday 29 January 2010
My overlocker should be home safe and sound next week, I can't believe how much I miss it! I'm practically paralysed in my sewing without it, but I have got a whole slew of projects lined up waiting for the seams to be tidied up before I finish them. The bad news is that although I can pick it up on Monday, that's my first day back at work in 14 months so I don't think my boss will be too happy if I nick off early just to pick it up! Guess I'll pick it up on Thursday which is my day off....

In the meantime though I've finished the top that actually broke my overlocker, or was the final straw in any event because it seems my overlocker has been broken for a while and I've just been ignoring the really bad tension. Luckily I had overlocked all the edges of the pieces in white thread before I changed the thread colour and things came to a shuddering halt.

I seem to have a thing for blouses with frills at the moment, which is so opposite to my usual minimalist simple style. I made this blouse from Burda 8/09 pattern 117:

So simple, basically just a few rectangles joined together with a big flounce down the front. This is my version:

I made it exactly to the pattern since it's meant to be loose fitting so it didn't need any pattern changes. I've made it from a lightweight wool in cream (super 120s made in Italy according to the selvedge), bought from a garage sale last year. I wanted to do a rolled hem in black thread on the edge of the frill but that caused my overlocker to go beserk, so instead I did a narrow rolled hem and then topstitched it in black thread using a decorative stitch on my machine. Luckily the back and front look the same because the way the frill sits you can see the underside:

I also did a few lines of shirring in black stitch to cinch it in evenly around the waistline, and also as a feature because that big expanse of white was a bit too much for me. My shirring however is pretty bad, with crooked lines and bad tension so it didn't gather as much as I'd like, but unpicking shirring elastic is really painful so it's gonna stay! I did however only do a few lines of shirring so that I could still wear a belt over the top if I want:

I can also tuck the top in, and if I wear it with a high waisted skirt it covers the shirring lines too! The bonus is that I never wear this skirt (an Adam Bennett wool pencil skirt bought from an op shop) because it is an orphan and I'm a bit matchy matchy in terms of jackets and skirts when it comes to office wear, but I think this look could even work for a night out:

Thanks for all your loving re: my fabric stash - it makes my heart sing every time to see it so I'm happy to share the love! I don't know if I've mention this before, but I work in town planning (also known as environmental or city planning), so I always think in a very spatially organised way. Plus I'm a little bit obsessive, you should see my pantry. My dymo label maker is almost as beloved as my sewing machines....

Tracy - what a brilliant idea to use clear plastic sheeting over the shelves, I had been thinking of using some Ikea fabric I bought originally for the lounge room curtains but this might be better. Michelle - those shelves are screwed into the walls to make sure they don't rock and tilt, but I'm hearing you on the uneven walls and floors - our house certainly has it's fair share of those. Levanah - if I'm buying fabric fabric with no particular project in mind I'll buy at least 5m if it's suiting fabric so I can get a skirt + jacket and sometimes pants out of it, and at least 2m to 3m of other fabric depending on price which is enough to get a dress or pants from. And Vicki - you're a wicked, wicked woman!

Verobirdie - Anna does have a tinge of red in her hair, which is very surprising indeed because I thought that her dad' black chinese hair would be dominant. Especially since red hair is not common in my family, my brother and sister and I being the only ones out of a gazillion cousins to have red hair and even my parents don't have it. I should have listened better in high school biology.

Teresa aka Marie Sews, what a great perspective to compare UFOs to completed items because I've definately finished more than what's in that box. Now I don't feel so bad at all! Marie-Christine, I agree with you completely that there is a good chance that old UFOs are unlikely to be in my current style, but to clarify I did a huge edit and chucked out at least half of my UFOs before putting them in that box. So that box is full of things I think I'll still like when I finish them. I guess I either had really good taste all those years ago when I started those UFOs, or I'm stuck in a rut..... But my best example is this simple white dress I posted about here, which was my oldest UFO (12 years) but is now worn frequently:

Happy weekend everyone, I'm going to try and cherish my last few days of freedom! I suppose I shouldn't be so melodramatic since I'm only going to be working 3 days a week....

attention fabric hoarders

Tuesday 26 January 2010
welcome, you are among friends here! Due to popular demand (oh, ok a couple of requests in the comments to the last post), a picture of my great wall of fabrics, folded ever so neatly and colour sorted:

Just to give you some idea of scale, these trusty Gorm shelves from Ikea are taller than me:

That mess on top of the shelves are rolls of fabric and interfacing under some curtain lining fabric because I haven't gotten around to making a curtain for that window above the shelves as yet. I have been thinking about covering the shelves to protect from dust and fading, but I love looking at the shelves too much every time I enter the room! And looky look, I'm wearing an outfit made from stashed and op-shopped fabrics.

Let's take a closer look, shall we? First up the whites, grey and black - no surprises here because they are staples of any stash and I do sew a lot with grey.

The reds, pinks and purples reveal that I own a lot of pink which is funny because i am trying not to overload the pinkess in Anna's wardrobe!

I have lots of green which I don't often use but would like to, and lots of light and dark blues too, which do get used:
And surprisingly I have lots of cream, yellow, orange and brown fabric which I hardly use in sewing but somehow these fabrics have followed me home!

A lot of this fabric is bought from op shops and garage sales so I am doing a community service and keeping it safe. Some more is from my mum and my gran's stash, and a lot of people give me fabric from their gran's estate etc when they find out I sew which is nice. But I do admit it, there is a fair bit of fabric in there bought new when on sale for no particular reason other than to own it!

Happy Australia Day to all Aussies at home and abroad. We enjoyed a very hot day in the city listening to a concert in Hyde Park, enjoying a sanger sandwich and doing a bit of flag waving:

And look, Anna is wearing a dress I made from stash fabric too! See I do need each and every piece of it......

my big box of UFOs

Sunday 24 January 2010
In response to Vicki's question:

No, definitely a long way from reaching the bottom of this pile.


Obviously I really can be impatient, distracted and quick to give up sometimes, but as a weak defence this lot is about 15 years in the making. Probably another 15 years in the finalisation too!

The good news is that I edited this box further after this photo and ditched another two UFOs on the basis of poor fabric/pattern choice, I've sewn up another as far as I can go before needing to overlock the seams and I'm in the process of unpicking another to re-do it. Baby steps...

Speaking of baby steps, Anna started walking over the weekend. Well she takes about 4 or 5 steps before she topples over, but it's a start. Now it's only a matter of time before I can teach her to fetch me a cup of tea!

a round up of goodness

Thursday 21 January 2010
{one} these gorgeous patterns have landed in my mailbox from the very lovely Katherine over at ZipZapKap vintage pattern etsy store:

These are some of the patterns I won from the Sew Retro contest, so not only did they cost me nada, Katherine threw in free postage and also included a beautiful card and a quirky photo taken in the Bahamas in 1959. Such great customer service!

And this is going to sound bizarre, but these patterns smell so nice! Usually vintage patterns at best have no smell, or at worst have a musty old paper smell, but I can only imagine how lovely Katherine's house/office/storage area must smell. So if you're in need of some vintage patterns, head on over to ZipZapKap and start squealing very loud ooohs and aaaahs. She also has a great blog too.

In fact I've already cut the pink top on the left of this pattern out, and will finish it once my overlocker comes home again:

{two} a recipe for these very cool looking shortbread biscuits over at forty-sixth at grace (via Craftzine):
{three} finding a funny and seemingly knowledgeable person who is going to repair my overlocker in a week and for only $80 plus parts. Kim - I haven't had my sewing machine or overlocker serviced before (in more than 8 years, how shameful!) so I picked randomly from the Yellow Pages. Well, I picked the Dulwich Hill Sewing Centre sort of randomly from the yellow pages, there was an op shop in Dulwich Hill I wanted to visit and there was also a sewing repair shop there so it seemed like a good omen and it is much much closer to my house than the place in Liverpool that Toyota recommended (Sewing Machine Services if you're out that way). The service guy noticed straight away that I had broken some little prong off the presser plate that separates the two needle threads, so I'm pretty confident he'll do a good job but I'll report back in a week.

{four} Reading this gorgeous book received as a christmas present from my husband:

The illustrations are simply beautiful, I only wish there was detailed photography or line drawings so I could make a copy or two!

{five} Anna is sleeping through the night again, and most importantly is going to sleep without any tears or screaming, yipee! And I don't know if this is coincidence or not, but the last few days since she was at childcare she has been much better behaved, eating her dinner properly and not throwing her food around and is much less whingy too. Jean - Anna's childcare centre is quite large because it caters for 0-6 year olds, and in her section there are maybe about 10 or so one year olds. When I picked her up on Wednesday afternoon she was happily sitting on a mat with some other children, although I don't know if I'd call snatching toys off each other and pushing and poking each other playing!

{six} it's almost a long weekend (Tuesday being Australia Day) and my husband has decided not to play golf on Saturday because it's going to be extremely hot. I'll have to find some household chore for him to do LOL

First UFO of the year done

Wednesday 20 January 2010
It turns out there is quite of lot of things I can sew without my overlocker, including many many candidates from my big box of UFOs (unfinished objects to those of you lucky enough to not be blighted by this affliction). This year I'm going to try my hardest not to create any new UFOs, and attempt to finish more than a few of the existing UFOs. But I'm not making any promises.

I'm off to a good start so far: finishing all the project that I've started and now I've completed UFO no.1 for this year.

It's a very simple sheath dress made from now OOP McCalls 8788, made in a soft cotton in aqua blue/green tiny floral print nicked from my mum's stash. This is a 1997 pattern, and it's possible I cut the pattern out then, but I didn't progress any further than that. I needed to buy lining material and a zipper to finish it, but it's not like me to avoid going to the fabric store, especially when I have a valid reason, so who knows why I never started this at all.

So at the start of summer last November or so I bought the lining and zipper, and sewed it up except for the hem. Then it sat on my dress form for a few month because I wasn't happy with how it turned out. I had cut this out so long ago, long before I became familiar with fitting issues such as my swayback and narrow, rounded shoulders and back then I used to cut the pattern out according to my size with no alterations at all. Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn't. As a result this dress had an unsightly puffiness in my lower back below the end of the darts and above my rear end, because it really needed a wedge shape removed from the pattern before cutting the fabric to deal with my swayback. I could have lived with it as a loose fitting shift dress, but it sort of annoyed me so I had to fix it.

If any of you needed convincing that my method of sewing is to make things up as I go along, here it is: I put this dress on inside out, then I pin fitted by pinching out the excess along my back (you know it's not easy to bend your arms backwards like that!) and then I sewed the dart along those pin lines. And it worked! However, while I was able to taper the dart to nothing at the top, it was still quite deep at the bottom and if I wanted to taper it properly it would have finished at the hem line. I was worried that might make movement a little restricted, so instead I stopped the dart abruptly like this:

Then on the right side of the dress I ironed it into a pleat at the back, so I am hoping to the non-sewing general public it looks like it was designed to be like that. I quite like it too:

And you can see that making that humongously long dart improved the fit at the back dramatically because now it follows my curves:

So anyway, this project is not too exciting or technically difficult since it's really just a well fitting simple summer dress, but it's out of the UFO box and into my wardrobe. And I learnt some valuable lessons too:

1. make necessary adjustments to the pattern before cutting out and not the fabric, it's much easier;
2. princess seam dresses are easier to get a snug fit for a swayback figure; and
3. most projects can be saved by dodgy techniques!

day two of baby free sewing time

Tuesday 19 January 2010
I was in my sewing room at 8am this morning, shortly after Anna left for childcare (I let my husband do the drop off that so he gets the look of abandonment, not me!) Things were whirring along nicely until I tried to be fancy and use my overlocker for a rolled hem for the first time in the 6+ years I've owned it. For months now I've needed to get it serviced because the tension is all over the place and the right needle thread keeps breaking, but because I couldn't bear to be without it I reverted to three thread overlocking which worked ok. Until now. I guess it's time to finally take it to a repair place, and use the time without it for cutting out future projects, or sewing up things that don't need overlocking, like those pesky curtains for our living room that are still waiting to be finished. Or even just cleaning up my sewing room, now there's a novel though.

Anyway here's the blouse I finished up last night. It only took three hours of baby free time during the day to sew up from cutting out to 99% finished, and I finished sewing the buttons on last night after the little rascal went to bed. I call this my sedate librarian look:

Hmmm, looks like I need to stop standing with my hands on my hips, because the narrow shoulder and set in sleeves of this top get those awful wrinkles when I do that. Maybe I'm going to improve my demeanour through my wardrobe!

I used Simplicity 4676, a vintage pattern picked up in an op shop which I nearly didn't buy because the envelope is pretty beaten up and I wasn't sure if all the pieces would be in it. But I can't resist a vintage pattern no matter what, so I'm pretty glad I did buy it because I really like this blouse. I'd guess this is an early 1960s pattern, going by the pre-decimal currency price on the envelope.

It was so easy to make, and the fit is superb for a vintage pattern, normally I find them to have loads of ease and they are often too loose and baggy. It fits pretty well at the back too even though I didn't make any allowance for my swayback because I knew I'd be tucking this shirt in for work wear:

I'm not too sure I like the bow look, maybe I need to practise tying better bows:

But I do like it worn with the ties loose and knotted at the neck line instead. I just need to get my husband to show me how to do fancy tie knots like a windsor or half windsor or whatever they are called:

I've made it from a cotton shirting in a fine dark red pinstripe on a crisp white bought from Spotlight for the insane price of $2m. I managed to find some dark red buttons in the stash that go nicely with the fabric, don't you love it when that happens?

Next planned is a fairly simple top in a chiffon, so maybe I'll do french seams so I can get on with sewing even without my overlocker. No sense wasting another baby free day tomorrow is there?

Happily I can say that whilst Anna did have some tears again today, she ate all her meals, had two sleeps (a miracle in itself really) and wasn't as bad as yesterday apparently. And me? No guilt whatsoever today!

first birthday dress

Monday 18 January 2010
Well first day of childcare went great for me - I practically skipped home and had fours hours of peaceful sewing in which time I nearly finished sewing a blouse from whoa to go except for the buttons. Not so great for Anna though.... Apparently she cried a lot and refused to eat or drink too. I only left her there for half a day today to ease her into it, and so I could bring her home for her afternoon nap in her own bed to lessen the trauma (which took more than an hour to settle her) but tomorrow she spends a whole day there. Oh well, I'm sure she'll be right! Is that heartless of me that I didn't even cry or feel bad at all? I just keep thinking it's something that countless little kids go through, and eventually when they toddle off to school it will be the same thing anyway.

I've just remembered that I forgot to show you all the little dress I made for her birthday. I plan to make a dress each birthday and put them away in a box so that she has quite a collection by the time she's 21. Of course she probably won't wear the dresses I make for her from the 13th birthday or so onwards, but still I like the idea of starting a new tradition. First up is this pretty pink number:

I used a vintage pattern, Butterick 5521 which is undated but is maybe early 1970s? It is a simple three panel tunic with a large tulip collar that would be just perfect for catching all sorts of food and drink spills if it were to be an everyday dress. I made the body of the dress out of some pink floral seersucker, and the collar from a waffle weave cotton in white that was from the stash.

It came out a little large for my little beanpole, so I took it in a little to get a better fit. It was also a little long even though Anna is quite tall for her age and despite the pattern envelope showing it as a top over shorts. There's those deceptive pattern illustrations at work again!

It's getting a little hard to photograph this wriggly little worm now that she is power walking around holding onto the furniture, so lucky my mum was there to hold on to her for one little minute to get these photos:

Ahh yes, I only put one lot of christmas decorations this year, and yet there they still are in the background!

One thing that did mesmerise her was the candle on her birthday cake. That funny looking cake is supposed to be shaped as a number one, but it tasted better than it looks!

Which the birthday girl absolutely loved! Notice that I've already taken the dress off, and put her in a ginormous bib, that dress is sure not practical.

Thank you all for your lovely comments on the yellow skirt. It looks great when standing still and I can arrange the fabric to fall properly, but I decided to wear it out at least once and make a judgement on it after that. Verobirdie - I agree that the Burda blouse looks better in a solid rather than a floral like that used by Burda in the magazine, the details get lost otherwise. Redhotpepper - thanks for the tip on the saliva, sounds bizarre but I'll give it a go next time but napisan worked just fine this time around. Gail - I stocked up on some lovely shirting material when I was in Bangkok a few years ago, it was only $2 - $5 aus a metre and how I cursed luggage weight limits! Carolyn - I've been dusting ans polishing my heels, it's been a while but I can't wait to wear them again.

Now it you'll excuse me, I have some buttons to sew on and a few more patterns to cut out!

Seeing the good in the bad

Friday 15 January 2010
Is it just me, or is it universal that annoying things will more likely happen when you're sewing something white? Such as spilling your drink, a naughty pet sleeping on the project or like what I did earlier this week, pricking your finger and not noticing until after there are big splotches of red blood all over my newly finished blouse! On the brighter side (I'm trying hard to see the good in the bad this year) I used the few days that I needed to soak and wash the blouse to make a skirt to go with it, and this is what I came up:

The blouse is Burda 2/09 pattern 125:

I originally planned to make this in a crisp white cotton, but all the reviews over at Pattern Review recommend using a soft, drapey fabric so I've used a soft, thin white cotton shirting material from the stash instead. I think it works, although I still get a bit of puffy sleeve syndrome if I lift my arms up:

I guess I'll just have to stop standing around with my hands on my hips when I'm wearing this shirt! Maybe this shirt will make me less bossy..... And maybe I should set up the camera tripod straight too so my photos don't look so crooked.

I did have troubles with the sleeve band due to the typical BWOF instructions, and after finally figuring it out from the helpful reviews on pattern review I still gave up on it because mine looked messy. Plus they were really really wide bands. So I took them off, cut them in half width ways and just sewed them on as a single band without a button opening. It's not like I'll ever need to unbutton them, so I figure this is just as good. Although I see from this photo there's a bit of excess fabric at the front and back of the shirt, so I may take in the darts even more to get a closer fit.

For the skirt, I used Style 1932, which is a 1970s era full circle skirt pattern. I think it's pretty funny since it's obviously a 1970s version of a 50s style skirt, right down to the poodle applique on the skirt.

I made the blue version in the centre, but I still had to lop about 20cm off though, and I left off the pockets because of the fabric I used. However, I'm not overly happy with how it has turned out, because the fabric doesn't fall in even ripples around my body, rather it tends to gather at the seams, ie at the sides and the centre front/back which looks rather unflattering:

I was just putting away the left over fabric and the pattern when I realised what I had done: the plaid pattern is printed on the bias and the pattern requires the panels to be cut on the bias. I was trying so hard to match up the lines (which I failed in anyway) that I forgot to cut the skirt panels on the bias, so they are cut on the straight grain and I guess that's why it doesn't sit quite right. But there is a lot of fabric there in this skirt, so I may be able to salvage it by turning it into a boring old A-line style or the like - seeing the good in the bad yeah!

Well Anna is off to day care for three days a week starting next Monday, but I'm not back at work for another two weeks so I have a mini holiday from being a mum for a few days. It's nice to be wanted, but I reckon it's going to be great to have a bit of space too! We had an orientation at the centre yesterday and Anna had a few tears even though we were only there for 45 minutes. But once she settles in it will be great for her, we spend too much time alone together her and I, and the opportunity to mix with other kids and do structured activities is for the best I think.

So tune in next week, I plan to do lots of sewing and get a haircut and maybe have a whole day sleeping (well that bit will be boring for you but it will be great for me).

still making big people's clothes

Saturday 9 January 2010
I know there's been lots of sewing of little girls clothes on this here blog lately, which is insanely boring to those of you who don't have small children! Don't pretend otherwise, even I used to glaze over looking at sewing blogs that went from adult clothes to kids clothes before I got myself preggers.....

But all is not lost. Since I'm back at work on 1 February (just a few short weeks thanks for reminding me Carolyn!) I'm working on a back to work SWAP (sewing with a plan). I'm currently scouring my Burda magazines and patterns for suitable blouses and suits and already have a stack of fabrics in mind.

However until then, here's some adult clothes I prepared earlier - another version of the tab shorts from Burda 6/09 pattern 120.

I have made these previously in red linen, and just before christmas I managed to make a pair in grey and white stripe seersucker fabric in time for our holiday (from hell).

Instead of buckles for the side ties I used buttons purely because I didn't have any buckles or D rings to hand and I wasn't braving the fabric shops in the pre-Christmas madness. I also made the ties longer because the original version were barely long enough. And just for some fun I put some button tabs on the cuffs for decoration because I saw that done on a pair of Gant shorts that were retailing for $300 odd dollars and I like to feel smug in my thriftiness/cheapness.

Nothing too technical or too exciting I know, but here's something else I made to dazzle you. My husband is a bit of a golf nut and a few months ago we were in a golf shop laughing at the extremely ugly clothes when he picked up a pair of black and white check pants and said "but these are ok". I bit my tongue and thought otherwise, but they were $150 so I wasn't about to buy them for him. So as a bit of a joke christmas present I made him a pair from stash fabric, a lightweight wool in a black and white check with a fine yellow line through it. I actually made a vintage skirt out of this fabric a while ago, and while I think the skirt looks fine for some reason a pair of men's pants in this fabric are a bit, well, fugly! Technically they are pretty good if I do say so myself. I made an actual functioning bag pocket on the rear with a welt pocket (usually I just do the welt for show and sew down the flaps so it doesn't open) which looks wonky because I didn't match the check very pattern very well:

I made the fly in the proper menswear style with a fly extension which is so much fussier and more difficult than the fly zippers on women's wear:

So why is there no photo of my husband wearing them? Well I failed the most basic bit of all - they don't fit! I checked his RTW suits and they were all size 36, and the pattern I had is a size 38 so I thought it would be ok but it turns out they are way too small. I guess that's the danger of making a surprise pattern where you can't measure the recipient. And since I've never made anything for my husband before except for some boxer shorts, I didn't even have anything previously to go by. I used Vogue 7004, a now OOP pattern that I picked up from an oppy some time ago.

So this adds up to a craft FAIL, at least until my husband loses enough weight to fit into them ha ha ha ha.

Thank you all for your reassuring comments about travelling with little mites. I'm glad to know that lots of wee ones have fractious travel experiences and that Anna maybe isn't completely evil/insane after all. Oh Claudine, you've confirmed my worst fears - that holidays aren't really holidays anymore and they are still just about entertaining the kidlets but somewhere different! I've already told my husband that for my 40th birthday I want to go trekking in Nepal on my own and he can stay home with the kid(s). Sue - what a coincidence, we stayed at Peppers Salt at Kingscliff too although we got upgraded to the Bale section for some unknown reason that I wasn't complaining about because we scored a luxury two bedroom apartment when we had only booked and paid for a one bedroom one! Yay for small luxuries.....