check out my sewing space

Friday 27 August 2010
Denise over at the Blue Gardenia is doing a great series on people's sewing spaces - she has just previewed Erica B's space and next up is Carolyn's, but today is me! I've been meaning to take photos to share here on my own blog, but it was always so terribly messy that I put it off. So I spent a few hours during the week to give a clean, but I'm sure it will only stay that way for a short time so I'm glad I took the photos for posterity's sake. I'm also very glad that Carolyn will be following me, because she will have at least twice as much fabric stash as me!

The Mad dress is about 90% finished - it needs a hem and taking in a little bit around the hips but otherwise it fits my friend who will be modelling brilliantly. Here it is sitting on my mannequin:

It is a proper black colour, I've just lightened these photos so you can see the detail (and also all the lint - this fabric attracts fluff like nothin' else). In the photo below, you can see the diagonal darts on the bodice which give it a lovely fitted shape, but also the poufiness that is happening at the hip line. I think it because I've used a different back bodice pattern to the front skirt pattern which means the hip curve doesn't match identically (aka my dodgy pattern drafting skills), but also because the way the 'belt' is tucked from the skirt fabric it just ends in a bit of excess fabric.

For the sleeves I opted to make two layers from the silk organza, finished with a rolled hem on my overlocker which made it even more fluttery. I'm delighted that my overlocker managed this - last time I attempted a rolled hem it threw a massive protest and needed to be serviced.

I'm not too sure about the drape though, I think it looks a bit silly and I might leave it off. It looks good on the pattern envelope, but once again I think it is a case of an illustrated pattern picture instead of a photo sucking me in.

I ended up leaving off the self fabric belt that starts on the front skirt, goes around the sides and finishes tucked under one of those diagonal darts on the front. The instructions were really vague and difficult to understand, and I couldn't get a good finish on it at all, so I've just left it off and basically all that is happening is the darts and draping on the front and the back is plain. Which means that there is no continuity of the belt for the drape to give the appearance that it is hanging from:

Also the silk organza may not have enough weight for it to hang in folds:

I just pinned it on using a brooch for the above photos, which may make it look even more obviously wrong than it it is, but I think without the drape the dress looks like a sleek, simple cocktail dress with some nice detailing.

So the plan is to finish it over the weekend and photograph it next week, in time for the September 7 deadline. Now my only other problem is that the friend I sewed this for loves it so much she now wants me to make her other things gulp! She said she will pay me, but I don't know how much to charge, plus I am always way more finicky making something for someone else than my own stuff that it becomes very stressful. Hmmm, I might have to think about it before I agree. Do any of you sew for others, and if so how do you decide how much to charge?

progress on the mad dress

Tuesday 17 August 2010
I'm calling the dress I'm working on to enter the Tessuti Awards my "mad" dress - mad because I have so much else going on at the moment and a relatively short time to finish it and photograph it; mad because I'm putting a lot of effort into a dress I'm making for someone else; and mad because it reminds of something that might be worn in Mad Men, which is oh so trendy right now. But never fear, I have finished a fitting muslin that will only need a few tweaks to it to get it to fit properly and so I should be able to sew it up this weekend. And the good news is that my friend who will be modelling it for me has very similar measurements to me (give or take a few centimetres), so I'll be able to easily make another one for myself when this one is done so I'm certainly not missing out either. Bonus!

So here's the plan (excuse my rudimentary sketching skills):

I plan to make the dress from some black wool crepe purchased quite a while ago from Tessuti, chosen because of it's lovely drape and ease for sewing and pressing. The detachable draping scarf and the sleeves will be made from some black silk organza I purchased today from Tessuti's city store, in order to meet the competition rules and to give the dress an interesting detail. The pattern is based on this vintage pattern:

but since I couldn't get a good fit on the bodice last time I tried to make this, I used the bodice from Burda 8/09 dress 128 instead which I've made before and wear all the time because I love it so much. I know it fits well and it's very easy to sew as well, having just two side darts:

I think set in sleeves get a better fit than a kimono style sleeve, and I get to avoid sewing the fussy gusset arrangement that the original pattern requires. For the pleats on the front, I traced them from the original pattern piece onto the Burda bodice pattern piece, and using a slash and spread method I added the extra width required. A bit dodgy, but it worked! I also used the back pattern piece of this dress, and just adjusted the front skirt pattern piece of the original pattern to fit the waistline, length and width of this dress. Too easy really, I thought I would be struggling since I'm no pattern drafter but miraculously it all worked.

For the sleeves, I've decided to make fluttery cap sleeves from New Look 6348 (the yellow version), a pattern I bought a while ago but haven't used yet:

Hopefully the sleeves will turn out ok made from organza, because they look pretty good in the muslin fabric. I have some polyester organza in the stash that I picked up from an opshop that I will use for practice before I cut into the silk organza I bought today.

And while I was at Tessuti's today, I accidentally bought some of this colourful and gorgeous Japanese cotton, that I will make into something shortly after finishing this dress (I swear! no stashing this):

The alterations to my friend's expensive dress are all done, and she wore it to the wedding she was attending with no seams falling apart so thankfully all that stress is behind me. It turned out to be quite simple in the end, because it had cap sleeves so I could take it in from the side seams without having to unpick the sleeves, although I did have to unpick the French seams to re-sew them and trim them close. Sorry I didn't get a photo of it, but it's basically exactly like Burda 3/09 dress 107, with a little gathering between the bust line:
Very simple isn't it? The fabric was very lovely silk lace and the design timeless, but I'm still not sure it was worth $700, especially as it was made in China. But I guess in the end any item is worth whatever someone is willing to pay....

Fingers crossed I'll be back posting a completed dress in the next week. I'm hoping that by posting all the details here I'll force myself to complete it and not just be all talk, no action. Now, don't anyone dare copy me!

I might be a little bit crazy

Tuesday 10 August 2010
Let's consider the evidence shall we?

Exhibit A:

I made Anna a little denim mini skirt, out of the same denim and topstitching thread as my skirt in the previous post.

No pattern for this one, it's just two rectangles with an elastic waist and the front pockets and fly are actually just decorative stitching so this took me only about an hour to sew. I'm not a fan of matching mummy and me outfits, so I swear we won't be wearing these at the same time! In fact Anna was so against the idea she wouldn't even let me take her photo wearing it, so just imagine a funky outfit comprising red and white stripe tights and a grey tee.

Exhibit B:

I'm doing some alterations for a friend, taking in a dress she bought that is a size too big. It's a beautiful dress, made from white silk lace over a black silk underlay in a simple sheath style dress. She needs it by this Sunday. The dress is the last one available for sale in Australia apparently. It's all constructed using french seams. And it cost her $700. Eek! I asked her why she didn't take it to a tailor to have it altered, and her answer is that she doesn't trust anyone else! Oh the pressure........

Exhibit C:
I am thinking about entering the Tessuti Awards competition. I have a lovely piece of black wool crepe purchased from there quite some time ago that has spent enough time in the stash, and what better motivation to make something from it than this competition? I mean, the prize is a trip to New York!

The quality of entries is always very high, and I've always been too intimidated to even try. But hopefully I can get myself organised in time to submit an entry. Entries close 7 September so I need to get my skates on. And just to make it even more challenging I am making it for the same friend I'm altering the dress for, because she is beautiful, very shapely and will love swanning around in a dress in front of critical eyes showing it off for me, whereas I would not! Oh and in the final piece of madness, I'm going to make it from a vintage pattern that I've tried previously and failed to fit properly, so this time I'm going to use a basic block pattern and draft from scratch......

Yep, that pretty much sums up the current state of affairs around here!

Another mummy out and about outfit

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Well Anna's conjunctivitis cleared up pretty quickly and without me catching it either. I managed to get the drops in quite well using your tip Jean, although Anna screamed so loudly and wriggled so much it still took two of us to hold her down! I don't like putting eye drops in my eyes either, so I don't entirely blame her.

I managed to get some time in last week making another playground friendly outfit. I'm sure denim skirts come in and out of fashion (not sure whether it is in or out right now), but for me it's a bit of a wardrobe staple. I had a RTW dark denim knee length skirt which I really liked, but foolishly decided to cut off the waistband and part of the front to replace it with a stretch panel to make it into a maternity skirt. Except I didn't factor in that my hips + butt grew so large that when I went to try on the skirt to see if I had cut the panel low enough to sit under my belly I couldn't even pull it past my knees! I did make this denim skirt shortly after having Anna, but now that I've gotten rid of the baby weight it's about a size too big and it has too complicated side panels and too much topstitching to bother undoing it.

I originally thought about making skirt 109 from Burda 1/08, which has unusual shape panels on the front with top stitching, but since I am a pear shape with saddlebag thighs I feared that the decorative topstitching would just point out those bits I'd rather disguise. Mentally I had the picture of it looking like this:

So I decided to make skirt 128 from Burda 1/09 instead not only because it has a similar pencil skirt style and decorative topstitching but mainly because I've already traced it out when I made it in green wool as part of a skirt suit! Yeah I know, lazy attitude but tracing those patterns out is a draining task.

Given my recent track record of sewing from the stash, I was a little disappointed that I had to buy some denim for this project, but I really was after a dark blue colour which I just didn't have. Luckily I found some stretch denim in the colour I wanted at Spotlight on the clearance table for only $6/m. And here's my finished project:

I topstitched the front vertical seams and the faux waistband tab with the traditional orangey/brown colour topstitching thread, and used two matching brown buttons from the stash on the front tabs. I'd show you a close up of the topstitching detail, but embarrassingly it's turned out rather wonky and in fact I may unpick it and redo it because I know it will bother me no end. But here's a view of the back instead, showing the back vents:

This skirt isn't overly difficult to make, but sewing those curvy tabs at the front was more difficult on this one than the wool version I made, I'm guessing because the fabric is stiffer. I also changed the order I made this one in, I sewed the side seams absolutely last and instead sewed the front facing to the front panel, the back facing to the back panel and then sewed the side seams starting from the facing and in one continuous seam down the sides. This differs to the normal order of sewing the front to the back at the sides, and then sewing the facing the whole way around the waistband. By doing the side seams this way I could take in the side seams without having to undo the facing. I'm glad I did too, because I ended up taking 3cm in from both sides to get a tighter fit for this skirt.

Thank you for the suggestions on what to wear with the red skirt. As you can see Paola, I've taken your advice and worn the denim skirt with some boots - it's a look I love on other people but have never tried it out myself so it's time to change that. I did actually wear the red skirt out last week to the museum, but with flat shoes because my feet were sore from clomping around the city the previous day in heels:

But now I've decided I don't like my denim jacket (it's JCrew picked up from an opshop years ago), so while I've got blue thread in the overlocker I may make another one instead. And speaking of my overlocker, wrapping the thread twice around the hooks above the tension dial seems to be working - thanks Sherry! I also changed the needles to jeans needles since I was working with denim and it seems to be working fine. I won't challenge it right now with knit fabric though.....