ooooh, look what I found!

Monday 29 November 2010
I had a very annoying 60 minute wait at the doctor's surgery last week, luckily neither Anna or I were very sick but it's still very hard work trying to control a toddler in a small room with other people waiting, when she should be having a nap and instead wants to go berserk! But it proved fortuitous because while waiting there I managed to speed read an old Shop Till You Drop magazine and spied this:

It's a notepad that comes complete with preprinted female croquis (ie body outlines) that you can sketch your fantabulous fashion designs on! Hokey Croquis sells this one and a smaller travel notepad on their website, and I think I shall be sending the link to my husband as a not so subtle hint for a Christmas present, because sadly I'm not being sponsored to do this post. Although I would accept sponsorship if you're reading Hokey Croquis! (*chirp* chirp* why do I hear the sound of crickets?)

I am a very ordinary sketcher, but I am constantly drawing loads of pictures of gorgeous outfits I see on people in the street in my Filofax (yeah, I'm old skool too) to the point where there's hardly any room for writing down appointments in there. So this would be a great addition to my handbag, as well as improving my fashion sketching no end. The only thing these notepads are missing are little holders for pens or pencils, because they always seem to go missing from my handbag, thanks to a pair of little hands treating my bag as a lucky dip.....

And if you want to try before you buy, or you need it now, or you're a bit of a tightwad (no shame, that's me to a tee), they even have some free downloadable croquis on their site too. I know there is a set of croquis over at Burda Style as well, but the good thing about the Hokey Croquis ones is that it includes a number of different body poses so you can choose the best one to illustrate your idea that is burning a hole in your mind (or is that just me?).

Thank you all for the lovely comments on the dress in the previous post. I am pretty happy that a simple fitted dress style paired with a graphic colourful print resulted in such a great outcome, and I suppose it makes a nice change from my usual grey and neutrals too! Did you all see the interesting tip in the comments from Pin Queen to sew a skirt bar (from a hook and bar) across the top of the vent to hold it together in the event of the seam ripping? I've never heard of this before, but I'm definitely going to do this because it's a simple thing to do but would prevent an extremely embarrassing wardrobe failure. Although I suspect as Amanda pointed out that the dress probably doesn't even need an opening because it's not really that tight around the knees (it's just that I'm too lazy to unpick the hem and seams of the dress and lining and sew it all back up!). And sewingelle thank you for confirming for me that the Vogue is the superior choice to the Burda pattern, although I do confess it was only laziness that made me choose the Vogue over the Burda....

Ann, the issue I found with the jacket pattern was that not only was it very shapeless as Shannon described, I also found the neckline didn't sit correctly on me. It would gape forward at the centre front in more of a v neck shape, and the two fronts that overlap wouldn't sit on top of each other neatly like the pattern illustration but would rather hang rather haphazardly to the side. At first I thought it was because I used a heavy linen fabric that didn't have enough drape, but I had the same thing occur when I made it out of a soft wool blend as well. But the style certainly suited me when I was pregnant, because the loose fit and cropped style accommodated my growing belly right to the end (although I don't really look all that pregnant in this photo):

And finally I have to share this fantastic giveaway that extremely generous Denise over at The Blue Gardenia is offering: a gorgeous 1950s vintage Butterick pattern, 4 yards of Italian wool fabric in a lovely teal colour, and a Revlon Fire n Ice nailpolish and lipstick. You have until 3 December to think up a comment about why you like vintage patterns that is good enough to impress Denise (which I think will be tough 'cos Denise is one witty lady).

Now I must get back to work (I'm writing this in my lunch hour) before the cranky IT people dob me in to my boss, and helpfully provide him with a graph showing how many hours and how many websites I visit during work hours. Yes they have done that before, and yes it was bad.....

does this look familiar?

Saturday 27 November 2010
I liked the black and purple graphic print tulip skirt I made a few weeks ago so much, that instead of putting the remaining fabric back into the stash to sit for a few more years, I decided to use it instead. One point to me for stash busting properly! I had thoughts of making this dress from Burda 3-2009 (dress 107):

but before I could muster the energy to trace it out, I remembered that I had Vogue 8319 which is very very similar (and predates the Burda, not that I'm making any accusations):

I've made the jacket from this pattern twice, one from a heavy linen (which is in the UFO box awaiting a refashion) and one from a soft wool (which I refashioned for maternity wear) and both weren't that great. But I'm glad to report the dress pattern is pretty good, so this pattern didn't turn out to be a complete waste:

This is a really simple dress, fully lined and with long princess seam style darts that resulted in a close fitting. The only thing I don't really like is the slit at the bottom of the back hem - it's just one of those done on the seam line so it spreads out, whereas I prefer the underlap style which I think looks neater (excuse the wrinkles, this photo was taken at the end of a long love in with office chair all day):
I did do a slight sway back alteration to get a close fit at the back, although I'll probably wear this with a belt for a more finished look, which cinches it in anyway:

So once again, this is another finished item that was not on the list of summer things to sew! But I really like it and will get a lot of wear out it. It's a great sheath style dress for work situations because with the wider shoulders there's less chance of visible bra strap, and according to fashion theory the wider shoulders should balance out wider hips too. I can see another version of this in a plain, subdued colour with piping at those shoulder seams with a matching self fabric/piped edge belt too. I was going to say that I'll put that on the list for next year's sewing, but if I do that I probably won't ever make it judging by my current form....

I must be crazy....

Tuesday 23 November 2010
It was my birthday last weekend - thank you in advance to all of you who will leave well wishes in the comments. My husband bought me some Japanese sewing books as a gift for me, at my choosing of course, he's not that good! First up is the "Let's Go Out Girls Clothes", part of the charmingly named Heart Warming Life Series, which has 25 patterns for little girls of height 90 - 130cm:
And I also bought "Easy Clean Clothes" part of the Polka Drops series which contains 34 patterns for boys and girls clothes for heights 90 - 130cm:
As if tracing and deciphering crazy Burda instructions isn't hard enough, now I'm going to try and do it when it's all in Japanese! But check out this absurd amount of cuteness:

The instructions are accompanied by some detailed drawings which should help, and frankly even though Burda instructions are written in english they aren't that frequently useful or understandable anyway. Plus I found a new to me blog - a little red robin - which helpfully provides a list of sources for help in Japanese sewing.

Birthday weekend was great, Anna had a sleepover at her grandparents while my husband and I partook in some fine wining, dining and uninterrupted sleeping at the Sydney Hilton. I can highly recommend Glass brassiere to any Sydneysiders - Luke Mangan the celebrity chef has put together a fantastic menu and the food was delicious.
And now I really need to get back to my summer sewing plan!

so dirn(dl) easy

Tuesday 16 November 2010
As I suspected I would, I lost energy after making some pattern alterations and haven't quite gotten around to making a muslin for the shorts pattern in the last post. I am the queen of UFOs after all! At least this time I remade the fabric into something else before it entered my big box of shame awaiting further work where there is at least 20 other projects already needing attention.

After that sewing mishap (aka monumental stuff up) I decided instead to make something easy to get back into the groove. Plus we had a weekend away last weekend to a golf resort on the coast and I needed something quick to finish so I could wear a new summery skirt because boy was it hot! What could be easier than sewing a dirndl skirt? Two big rectangles for the skirt and a long narrow rectangle for the waistband - no pattern required, no fitting just gathering the skirt to the waistband, sew in a quick zip at the side and all done. Gertie over at her New Blog for Better Sewing has a great tutorial if you want to make your own.

Except I did manage to sort of mess it up - I sewed my label on the inside waistband at the front and not the back (no big deal though 'cos no one can see it), and it seems that I've been wearing low rise pants and skirts for so long that I've forgotten where my actual waist is, because I made this skirt a little too loose and it sits too low I think for this style. But it looks pretty good for less than an hours work:

The fabric itself is rather funny, I can't quite decide whether it's fugly or fabulously quirky! It's a very crisp cotton fabric that I bought from a little old Italian lady many years ago at a garage sale. This lady had sooo much fabric that it was spread all up and down her hallway, lounge room and dining room and she was shoving fabric into my hands saying 'you take this, you take this'. And this is one of the pieces I ended up with:

Shall we take a closer look at those patterns and you'll see what I mean:

The print itself is rather crazy, and the dark green with bright pink and beige colours shouldn't work at all, but somehow made up in the skirt I think it looks pretty. I still have about 3 metres of this fabric left, so it remains in the stash still even after sewing such a voluminous skirt.

Good news too - apart from hemming I have nearly finished a dress and it fits! And I didn't make any mistakes while making it either! Phew, I haven't lost my skill set completely then....

And since you all seem to love photos of Anna, here she is demonstrating her latest developmental milestone:

I'm pretty sure in some child rearing handbook somewhere there's a milestone for being able to walk in your mummy's shoes? She actually does quite well too - she didn't fall over and her walking style is no more clumpy or stompy than some women I see out in public. I just hope her feet are bigger than mine when she's grown up otherwise I will have some serious competition on my hands for my shoes!

craft failure

Thursday 11 November 2010
I seem to have tempted fate lately with all my bragging about finishing a whole outfit in one week or conquering a 3 dot Burda jacket equally quick because now I have experienced fundamental sewing failure of the most simple kind: I made something that is way too small for me. Much like an earthquake in San Francisco, it's expected it will happen eventually but it's still a surprise when it does because we all know Sewing 101 is to know your measurements and use the right size pattern.....

I bought McCalls 5391 a few months ago when had a 99c sale. It has six differing styles of shorts, not a complicated pattern but just something decent to wear when hanging at the playground. According to the measurements on the pattern envelope I needed a size 10 for the waist, but nearly a size 16 at the hips which was a small problem since the pattern I bought only went up to a size 12. So I laid a pair of well fitting shorts over the paper pattern to compare sizes, and it seemed that a size 12 would not only be fine, but possibly a little baggy. Typical excessive ease in commercial patterns, I smugly thought to myself.

Well, I don't know exactly what I was looking at when I did this comparison (maybe the front of the shorts to the back pattern piece?) because when I sewed up the shorts and tried them on I couldn't even zip them up they were that tight! And to make matters worse, not only did I cut one pair out in black linen, but in a fit of efficiency I also cut out a second pair at the same time in another fabric. So that would be two pairs of too small shorts. Luckily neither were expensive or precious fabrics, and it's not like I have a shortage of fabric either so no big deal I guess.

One of the good things about having a small person in your life is that small people wear small clothes and I was able to cut out some shorts for Anna from the pieces of my failed project. So I consider this a scale version of what is to come:

I made these using McCalls 6016, another 99c pattern purchase which I used for the beige shorts I made a few posts back. This time though I altered the pattern by lowering the waist and the distance between the bottom of the fly and the crotch so that Anna isn't getting around like a harry high pants. Seriously, even with her cloth nappy on the original fit of this pattern was ginormous. Too bad their adult pattern aren't drafted the same.

I also made a black and white top to go with the shorts, recycled from a shirt I made for myself last summer that seemed to acquire an unshiftable stain right in the front, but again with the little pieces required for kids clothes it was easy to cut around it and use the rest of the fabric.

I've become a typical mother haven't I? Literally giving my child the clothes off my back LOL!
I used Kwik Sew 3665, which is a raglan sleeve peasant style top. It has elastic around the neckline and the sleeves, so it doesn't matter if your kid has a huge head it should still fit (unlike a t-shirt I made for Anna once!) If you can get over the thick paper that Kwik Sew use for their patterns which I find extremely annoying to stick pins through, Kwik Sew patterns are great for being appropriately sized in my experience and very simple to make.

That would be Anna up there sticking the thermometer in her ear. I seem to have a developing hypochondriac on my hands because her favourite thing to do is to check her temperature and declare 'sick'. I suppose I should just be happy we have an ear thermometer and not a rectal one....

And now I need to make some pattern adjustments and I suppose I should do what I'm sure some of you are thinking I should have done in the first place: make a muslin. It's so much easier to sew skirts and dresses!

more deadline sewing

Sunday 7 November 2010
I made quite a big list of summer dresses and skirts to sew for Anna and myself but of course with all good plans I've found myself sewing anything but what is on the plan. Aside from the tutu that I made on Wednesday (glad you all liked it so much, it is pretty cute), I also made a skirt on Thursday night, and a top on Friday night, all so I could wear them out to dinner on Saturday night.

It helps immensely to have an enormous stash of fabrics and notions when you decide to sew something on a whim but you need it done pronto. I pulled some cotton sateen out of the stash that I had bought earlier this year during one of the very frequent sales at Spotlight, some black wool jersey bought from a garage sale some time ago, and two BWOF patterns already traced and I managed to get this outfit done in two nights of sewing:

The skirt is made from BWOF 9/2007, skirt 116 which I made a long time ago in a solid chocolate brown cotton and absolutely hated it. In fact I don't think I even wore it apart from taking a photo for this blog and it has since long gone from my wardrobe. Having large hips, I wasn't too thrilled with a skirt that put volume in that area, even if it did have a slim waistline. Plus the boring brown fabric was hard to accessorise and is not my favourite colour. And I used to loathe high waisted styles, so really I don't know why I sewed it in the first place!

But after sewing what has now become my favourite dress, Burda 8/2009 dress 128 (the dark grey dress third from the left up there in my blog header) which is a tulip shape with a boatneck style neckline, I have warmed to the tulip shape and I find it a more casual but still dressy alternative to wearing a pencil skirt for social occasions (otherwise I feel like I'm wearing work clothes). And I don't feel the need to suck my stomach in or wear spanx with this skirt, which is a good thing when you're going out to dinner. The pleats in the front of this skirt are almost lost in the graphic print, but I really like the colour and pattern of this fabric and I think it suits it really well.

I didn't line this skirt because the cotton sateen is quite dense and shouldn't have any see through issues. Because of the looser fitting and draping of the skirt there wasn't a need to do any precise fitting that you would have to with a pencil skirt, so it sewed up very quickly. I'm serious when I say it took me less than 3 hours to cut out and sew this skirt - it would take longer to go shopping for a skirt!

As for the top, I put aside my fear and loathing of sewing knits to make this very simple boatneck top and I'm glad I did because it turned out really well. I used Burda 2/09 top 108, which again I have made previously. But this time I had no wavy hems because I used some fusible interfacing along the hem line before sewing with the twin needle (thanks to Mary Nanna and Lady Jenn for the tip!), which also removed the need for facings because all I did was serge the edge, turn it to the inside and topstitch. Using a very stable knit fabric also helped too I think, this has a bit of one way stretch but not too much and in fact it almost sewed up like a woven which is probably why it worked out so well! Plus this is a very simple pattern consisting of three pieces - front and back cut on the fold, and the sleeves.

And I finally got to wear these sparkly shoes that I bought on sale when I was heavily pregnant with Anna (almost two years ago) - they match the purple in the skirt perfectly. I do apologise for any damage to your eyesight from those blindingly white legs of mine though!

Sugar and spice, and all things nice

Thursday 4 November 2010
So this must be the pinkest and frothiest thing I've ever sewn:

I took Anna to the ballet today at the Sydney Opera house, and of course she needed her very own tutu to wear! It was a performance designed especially for 2 - 5 year olds because it was only 40 minutes long and the ballerinas weren't up on stage but rather right in front of the audience. The little ones were encouraged at the end to get up and dance with the ballerinas, which some loved but freaked some others out:

image from here.
And it turns out a tutu is the perfect thing for admiring the view of Sydney harbour as well as being a tourist spectacle yourself:

There are lots of tutorials out there on how to make tutus, some a bit time consuming such as cutting the tulle into thin strips and tying them in knots around the waistband or other tutorials involve sewing several tiers of tulle. But since I left this until last night, I went the super easy option and sewed her tutu like an apron so that it could be simply tied on over top of whatever she's wearing. Also this means it will be able to live in the dress up box for years to come and be worn by bodies of various sizes too.

If anyone else needs to make one in a hurry, and let's face it I'm sure that's how much time most of us leave ourselves to make dress up costumes for our kids, here's how I did it in less than an hour (provided you have the materials of course):

1. cut several long rectangles of tulle. I used four layers of pink bridal tulle (because it was softer) and two layers of hot pink tulle with polka dots which seemed to be enough layers for puffiness. I used the full width of the fabric which at 114cm also happens to be twice as wide as Anna's waist, and cut 25cm lengths which is the length from Anna's waist to her knee. So for your child, cut the rectangles as wide as you want (I recommend twice as wide for nice fullness) and as long as the distance between your child's waist and knee (or shorter if you want it finish above the knee).

It doesn't matter if your cutting isn't precise either, because slightly varying lengths of the tulle adds to effect.

2. sew all the layers together along one long edge with a long machine stitch and pull the thread up to gather it. Gather it up enough so that the finished width is about the width of your child's waist. And now you should have some serious volume going on with the tulle layers:

3. Cut a piece of prefolded satin blanket binding about twice the width of your child's waist. Slide the gathered edge between the folds of the blanket binding, leaving the ends of the binding to be ties. Sew along the open edge of the two layers of the ribbon, enclosing the gathered top of the tulle layers.

That's it! A good indicator of a properly fluffy tutu is one that can stand up on it's own: