another fab giveaway over at the Blue Gardenia

Monday 31 January 2011
Well Denise over at the Blue Gardenia certainly keeps the fabulous giveaways coming thick and fast. She's having another giveaway right now, offering this gorgeous vintage pattern:

or a $25 gift certificate to pick your own pattern if that one is not to your size, three+ yards of raw silk material, a sewing book and some Nars nail polish to boot and all you have to do is leave her a comment, follow her blog or Twitter account. Too easy right?

But this competition closes midnight January 31 - which depending on where you are in this wide world is tonight! Get cracking people....

And now if you'll excuse me I'm heading over to Denise's blog to think of a good enough comment to win me that pattern - I don't know if you've all noticed but I do love stripes!

oops, (nearly) did it again

Saturday 29 January 2011
Thank you all for your feedback on the grey dress - so many great ideas as well as much encouragement for how it looks as is. This is what I just love about blogging, it's like having a friendly but helpful critical sewing friend in your life when you may not have one of those in real life. I've decided I will wear the dress a few times to see if I can live with it as it is (and I suspect I will probably forget all about the side and back views when I'm wearing it) and if not I will reluctantly get out the seam ripper and think about an alteration. But I will try to accessorise it better - I have plenty of fab brooches and necklaces but just never think about putting them on. I need to do the opposite of Coco Chanel's advice and put one thing more on before leaving the house!

Anyway I think my brain is still on holidays because not only has my sewing output remained low so far this year, I almost very nearly made another shapeless dress. Except I turned it into a skirt and all was saved.

Back in 2008 this fabric and pattern appeared in my SWAP list:

I did in fact sew this dress in 2008, albeit in a different fabric and when I was heavily pregnant with Anna so I made a slight modification to the pattern to add extra width across the front and turned it into maternity wear:

And it is great for a maternity dress! For a non-maternity dress, not so much. I should've figured that out given the magazine model looks to be in the family way, and only review of this pattern on pattern review was for a maternity version as well! I however, thought that if I sewed this in a soft drapey fabric that those folds on the front would just hang down nicely and the darts in the back would cinch it in just so.

Well not only was this dress verrry roomy all around, it's also very low cut in typical Burda style. Last time around I had a more impressive bust line to work with, but now that I've gone back to my less than well endowed chestal region, I had to hoick this dress up so much just to cover my bra straps let alone for decency that the end result was that the shoulder straps would have been 3cm long at most, not the 8.5cm the pattern calls for. All in all the dress looked a bit silly and not a flowy summery dress like I imagined.

So I cut it in half, sewed on a wide waistband and made this a-line skirt instead:

Much better! I really like this, and it's not even grey! The fabric is a soft poly-cotton that I bought a few years ago, and I've made a lining from some black cotton poplin because the outer fabric is rather thin. I also used a longer invisible zip than is usual for a skirt: 35cm as opposed to 20-22cm long because I find with higher, snug fitting waistbands it's harder to slide over my hips if the zipper isn't that little bit longer.

All my stripe matching practice lately is clearly paying off, because the black and white band around the bottom of the skirt matches perfectly at not only the side:

but also the back:
I wore this skirt all day today and not only was it comfortable it barely wrinkled as well so I can say unconditionally that I'm delighted with how this turned out. So hopefully this will re-energise my sewing mojo so that I can get on with all the projects that are in my head!

First dress of the year

Thursday 20 January 2011
I've finally finished my first garment for this year -something that should have been simple and quick to make but it became a torturous event in the end, but happily I saw it through and it did not become another UFO.

Just before Christmas last year I saw a lady at my bus stop who looked really lovely, and she was wearing a simple shapeless shift dress cinched in at the waist with a chain belt, that was made in a cream colour with thin navy blue horizontal lines, a navy blue yoke and cap sleeves. She also had on quilted Chanel ballet flats and was carrying a quilted Chanel chain handled bag so I'm guessing it was probably an expensive dress. She was also a beautiful Asian lady with slim hips which is probably what made the whole look work, because as we all know horizontal stripes aren't the most flattering of looks.

Now I am not slim hipped, and I don't own any Chanel either but I thought what the heck I'll give it a go and make the look my own. I used this battered 1980s Vogue pattern (Vogue 7454) that someone gave to me a while ago:

but unfortunately whoever made it previously had sewed this into a short top and had lopped the pattern off at about waistline. So I grafted the body of a New Look sheath dress pattern onto it, but I forgot that when I made that dress previously it was too short for my liking, so this dress has the most minuscule hem ever but it's not that noticeable.

For the main part of the dress I used a crisp cotton in grey with a fine black line through it and for the yoke I used some black linen left from another project. I know, I know, I'm back to my previous form of sewing with grey, but it was fabric from the stash which is why I went with it. Plus a white or cream colour would never work with a grubby two year old in my life.

Here's my finished product:

To be honest I'm a bit meh about this. My initial plan was to make this a shapeless shift dress and cinch it in with a belt, but it turns out that I'm a bit vain and I don't want to look shapeless when I'm not and the belt really just bunched the fabric around my waist in a rather unattractive way. So I put some darts in the front and back to give my waist some definition, but I really should have done a swayback alteration before cutting the pattern out to get a close fit. As you can see from the side it still pooches out at the back:

Nothing like a blog photo to show you how bad your posture really is!

I'm also not sure that a belt is right for this dress either, because it competes with the horizontal stripes of the fabric both with a thin and a thick belt:

In fact I like it even less paired with red accessories, which surprises me because usually a red shoe will improve anything!

The other problems I encountered with this dress was that I originally sewed this without a lining, but after I had sewed it together and basted in the invisible zip for fitting I realised the cotton wasn't as dense as I thought. So I had to unpick the yokes and sew in a lining from a thin cotton in light grey, also from the stash.

And then when I put the darts in the front and back it made the dress puff out under the armholes where the solid fabric meets the grey fabric, so I had to unpick those yokes again, take it in at the side seams and sew those yokes back down again. It still does a bit, as you can see in the photo below, but I couldn't take it in too much because it was getting too tight to get on and off.

Phew! So much work for what was supposed to be a simple summer frock.... But I will wear this now, since it took so much effort to create.

starting the year off right

Monday 17 January 2011
I've had such a slow start to my sewing year so far - here we are in the third week of January already and I haven't even finished a single garment yet. Well actually, I did finish one dress but I wasn't happy with how it turned out so I've taken it apart and am currently reworking it.

But I have started the year off on the right foot. I gave my sewing room an almighty clean up - putting away the remnants of last year's projects, packing away loose pattern pieces that were laying around, giving everything a good dust and vacuum and tidying up my fabric shelves. In fact my sewing room is so clean, I almost don't want to use it for fear of messing it up!

I didn't make any sewing resolutions or goals this year, in fact I think this year I will just sew on a whim: whatever takes my fancy is where I shall go. I may as well do it this way, since I'm absolutely hopeless at sewing with a plan and there's no real hole in my wardrobe that I need to fill.

I will continue on with the one intention that I made last year and was actually successful with - no new UFOs. Yes, that's right, I either finished all of the projects I started or I remade them into something else for Anna if they didn't work out. Of course I haven't finished all of the UFOs that still reside in my big box of UFOs either, but not adding to the pile is something at least. Which is where the dress I'm currently taking apart comes in - I was tempted to put it down and move on since it's supposed to be a simple summer dress that is in fact turning into a fiddly nightmare, but I'm determined to finish it and wear it. So stay tuned!

And because I don't like to post without a photo, here's a photo of the unflattering pleated navy blue polka dot skirt I made from Burda 10-2008 pattern 103 , reworked by evenly gathering the fabric around the wide waistband:

Much better! This was a great skirt to wear on our holiday to make it through the steamy hot days.

Thankfully my inlaws survived the floods with no damage to their house at all, except for the loss of the contents of their fridge and freezers due to the electricity being off for a few days. Which is nothing compared to what others have experienced, so to keep karma on side we shall be making a donation to the relief effort.

look who's two!

Tuesday 11 January 2011
Hi y'all, I'm back home from holidays. Although any parent will tell you that travelling with children isn't actually holidaying, it's just parenting in a different place with additional challenges because the kids are out of their comfort zone. Anna was extremely naughty the whole time, but Cairns in tropical north Queensland is a beautiful place and we managed to have a good time despite her best attempts to sabotage it! We took a boat trip out on the Great Barrier Reef and saw some beautiful coral and fish, a day trip into the amazing Daintree rainforest (a world heritage listed wet tropics area), and a fair bit of splish splashing in the huge outdoor pool in Cairns since it was so hot.

I don't know if this has made worldwide news yet, but most of Queensland is currently under flood, in fact an area greater than Germany and England together is affected and today there is a major flood crisis in Brisbane and surrounds. There was no catastrophic event like Hurricane Katrina, but the aftermath of the flooding is just as bad. My inlaws in Ipswich have been evacuated and will be safe, but we are worried about their property though. My thoughts are with all those in Qld, I could not imagine losing everything or fearing for your life in this manner. I hope you all keep dry and safe.

Anna had her second birthday while we were away, I cannot believe how quickly the last two years have passed. It such a cliche that you hear parents often say, but now that I have lived it I can understand how true it is. How did I get from this:

to this so quickly?

Of course another birthday means another birthday dress. This year I went for a simple style with some cutesy embellishment:

It's a red stretch cotton poplin made into a simple shift dress with a double layered puff sleeve made using McCalls 5916 which is now firmly a TNT dress pattern. I used some black gingham bias tape for the neckline and sleeve edge, which meant I could eliminate the neck facing so it was even quicker to sew because while sewing in miniature isn't difficult it can get fiddly sometimes.

I used some heat'n'bond transfer paper to iron on a dacschund image from black gingham on the front of the dress. That stuff is magic - very quick and easy to use and this dress has gone through the wash twice now and there's no hint of fraying of the edge of applique, and it is still firmly stuck on despite no sewing. Basically all you do is iron the heat'n'bond paper to your fabric, cut out whatever shape you want, peel off the backing paper and then iron it onto your garment (or other fabric), and you're done! So simple, but much easier than doing applique stitch around the edges of your embellishment.

And here's my two year old who epitomises the phrase "terrible twos" to a tee, hamming it up for the camera:

Happily, she is back at daycare but my husband and I aren't back at work until next week so we have a few quiet days without her. I'd like to say we are relaxing and re-enacting life pre-child, but sadly we are painting the kitchen and hallway, so it's all go, go, go around here at the moment.