small diversions

Monday 28 March 2011

Oh you guys are too funny - all that love for that fabric I so boldly declared to be ugly! Maybe my photos didn't convey how the colours match the colour of boogers and baby poo (sorry for being coarse). But a big part of the overall horribleness of the fabric is it's feel - it's a nasty polyester that has a scratchy feel, wrinkles if you look at it the wrong way and was so slippy and slidey it was difficult to sew with.

Anyway the dress is looking promising fitting wise, but I haven't progressed much further than cutting out all the pieces. Sadly I backed up my tonsillitis last week with another stomach bug over the weekend, so energy levels and enthusiasm for getting off the lounge have been rather low I must say.

I did manage to eek some sewing time in over the last week though to make some pants for Anna. It seems that Anna has sprung up another two inches overnight because all of her jeans and pants are now three quarter length, so what better reason than to use one of the Ottobre magazines I bought recently? I made the bootleg jeans from Ottobre 6/2010:

and what everyone says about Ottobre is so correct, the fit on these are much better than those I've made from the Big 4 pattern companies. The waistband sits near the waist, and not under the armpits, and the fit is trim and not too baggy. I liked these so much that I made three pairs! First up a pair of boring plain black corduroy ones which will be a good staple in the wardrobe of a messy little girl:

These are straight off the clothes line, hence the peg marks on the legs.

And then I made a pair in brown corduroy with purple polka dots. Seriously, at what other age could you wear polka dot pants and not look a little nutty?

Plus it's a good match for our dog, and you all know how much I love to be matchy matchy!

And for the third pair I refashioned them from a pair of wool/poly blend pants that someone gave to me that never fitted correctly, so instead of trying to alter them to fit me it was much easier just to cut them down to make a little bitty pair of pants instead. For these ones though I left off the back patch pocket, and bound the pocket edge with grosgrain ribbon to make them look a little dressier:

They were perfect to wear slouching around at the Australian Museum:

and for getting soaked in while 'feeling' the falling water!

I managed to make these quite quickly, probably about 1.5 hours for each start to finish. I took a shortcut by leaving off the fly shield - it's a nice detail but a little fiddly and not really necessary for kids pants. Also it makes things go quickly when you're not trying to fit around adult curves and solve the multitude of trouser fitting problems. However I did put some elastic in at the back waist to get a closer fit, especially as we have started toilet training and can hopefully get rid of the nappies soon.

I also made them extra long so I can let down the hem in case she keeps growing the way she has been. Someone told me once that the height a child is at two is half their adult height - Anna was about 90cm at her second birthday which means she'll be 1.8m/almost 6ft!. Not quite as tall as her dad but much taller than her mum....

ps. Samina - my wedding ring is back on my finger, I just try not to think about where it's been!

the UGLIEST fabric you've ever seen

Saturday 19 March 2011
I proclaim that blog title as a fact, not a question. I apologise for what I'm about to do to your retinas, but Lizzie asked me in the comments to the last post to share how I make muslins (aka a toile.)

First step is to find a fabric from my stash that I won't ever wear in public but is similar in fabric content, weight and drape to the fabric I plan to use for the final garment. And this fabric certainly fits the bill:

In my defence though, I often buy fabric in bulk lots either from the op shop or garage sales and that's how I end up with gems like these in the stash. But since I'm a hoarder (albeit an organised one and not out of control yet), I never throw any out, no matter what level of ugliness it is. But clearly even ugly fabric comes in handy sometimes!

Now I'm not a professional dress maker, and despite the amount of muslins I've been making recently I don't even make them all that often really. So this ain't a professional tutorial, I'm just sharing with you what I do.

After picking the right fabric, I tend to make the first muslin straight off the pattern with just a few alterations to the pattern that I always make such as a sway back alteration and a narrow shoulder adjustment. I don't bother with interfacing or facings although I do fold under the finished edge 1.5cm so that the finished neckline isn't lower than thought at the end (yeah I learnt that one the hard way). I put both sleeves in too, because getting a good fit around the arms and shoulders is important to me. And now that I've discovered that I have one shoulder lower than the other I now realise why the fit on both shoulders always turned out differently!

And then while I'm wearing the garment, standing in front of the mirror, I basically pinch and tuck and fold and pin the garment to my desired fit, and draw on the garment where I need to take it out (usually around the hip). Literally, like this:

And then I unpick all the seams, transfer the changes to the pattern or make a new pattern piece if it's too different. I've read some pattern making books that recommend using the muslin pieces as the actual pattern which makes sense if you're making something once, but since I want to get rid of the ugly fabric eventually but keep the modified pattern for future usage, I just make the changes to the pattern paper and stick a post it note in the envelope of the changes I made.

If I'm lucky there's not too many changes after the first muslin and I'll then take my chances and go on to make the final version. This dress however needed lots of reworking, to the side panel alone I've reduced the side seam quite a lot, pinched a little excess out of curve of the princess seam, as well as reducing the width of the front panel and the back panel too!

So I'm now onto my second muslin for this one, but it's looking promising. I'm so looking forward to finishing the muslin for this one and binning that ugly fabric - it's depressing sewing with it!

Sorry for the short and rather lame post, as I said I'm not an expert on this so I don't have too much to say about the topic. I just do what works for me, even if it rather unorthodox (or slipshod). Plus I'm convalescing at this point in time, I have another bout of tonsillitis. First one for this year, but after the five bouts last year I wasn't too keen to see it come back so early! My doctor says one more bout and she'll recommend I have them removed which sounds really painful but could also mean a week of ice cream yay!

Pattern gorging

Tuesday 15 March 2011
Wow, I'm glad you all liked my fuchsia dress as much as I do! It makes a nice change from the usual lovely but oh so serious style of work dress that I usually wear. I did wear it to work this week with stockings and a blazer but since I didn't line the skirt portion of dress it stuck to my legs and rode up a bit. I'll have to invest in a half slip (can you still buy those?) or make a full lining for it.

My Vogue patterns finally turned up in the post yesterday, I'm so glad they didn't get lost in the system. I did notice the postage cost on the envelope was only $5.44US, so Sewing Dragon they made money out of me too, or at least they certainly charged a lot for handling.....

Because it was $15 postage for 1-3 patterns and they were on sale for $3.99, of course I bought 3 patterns, which are:

Vogue 8543, the skirt suit which you've already seen. I plan to make this out of a light grey textured wool flannel. I know, I know, I'm reverting back to grey but I swear I have just the right fabric in the stash that I want to use for this suit and that's why! Plus I think a light grey colour is a good neutral base for wearing it with vivid blouses and scarves.

Vogue 1156, which is an Anne Klein dress that is quite simple but I like those radiating pleats from the neckline (sunray pleats?), and having not only a princess seamed bodice but also a waistline seam front and back should help greatly in getting a good fit. No fabric picked out for it as yet, but I would like to make it soon(ish).

Vogue 1192, another Anne Klein dress which I discovered after ordering that it had really bad reviews over on pattern review. So this might sit in the stash for a little while, until I feel up to another monumental fitting challenge!

Katherine H asked in the comments to the last post which Simplicity patterns I purchased from sewing recently. Only happy to oblige!

Simplicity 2337, my first Project Runway pattern. I'm actually sewing a muslin for this at present and plan to sew the final version out of a charcoal grey herringbone polyester fabric.

Simplicity 2443, a Cynthia Rowley pattern that I bought mainly for the jacket because I don't have many casual, non corporate but still cute jackets to wear with jeans.

Simplicity 2253, which is a formal gown for which I have very little need for in my wardrobe but I thought that maybe I could make this knee length in a cotton for a smart casual summer dress. Possibly even contrasting colours for those diagonal strips around the torso if that didn't look too naff. But since it's a summery pattern it will have to wait a few months now.

Simplicity 2320 which is a children's Project Runway pattern that I'm planning to make a longer sleeved version in a fine wale corduroy for Anna.

Simplicity 2907, another kids pattern that I bought to make Anna a shirt dress but again will have to wait until next summer now. Helpfully the pattern ranges in size from 1/2 to 4 so I have plenty of years to get around to making it!

But the pattern gorging doesn't end there either! I recently bought two Ottobre magazines at the suggestion of several readers who assure me that the fit is better than the Big 4 catalogue. I bought these from Crafty Mamas, who are the Australian distributors, and they arrived very quickly in the mail so I can certainly recommend a purchase (or two) from them.

There are some really cool clothes for babies through toddlers to kids in these magazines, so I'm sure I'll get a lot of use out of them. In fact, I've already made a pair of jeans from one of these that just needs a snap or button inserted to be done.

And finally I happened to be in Kinokinuyas the other day when they were having a 20% off all craft books. So I purchased this lovely Japanese sewing book which I hope to start using soon:

Thank you so much to those who offered to purchase patterns in those amazing US sales and on post them to us long suffering Australians in an overpriced sewing pattern market, it is very kind of you but also very evil in an enabling kind of way! As you can see I definitely do not need, and should not buy, more patterns. For now. Maybe in the future I'll be in touch...

Summerflies (of the aptly named Sew Darn Tired) asked how Anna is sleeping - well I am happy to announce that since we made the appointment for the sleep specialist (which is next Friday) the little monkey has been sleeping great! It's like she knew we had reached our breaking point and so her work in destroying us was done. Seriously, in the last two weeks we've had several nights of her sleeping through until 6.30am, and the other nights she'll only wake once or twice but go back to sleep relatively quickly. Don't know how long this will last, and we will keep the sleep specialist appointment, but I'm enjoying it - especially as it means that during her waking hours she is such a more pleasant child to be around. Fingers crossed it lasts.

now in technicolour

Thursday 10 March 2011
A few weeks ago when I was sick I watched seasons 1 and 2 of Mad Men in one sitting, and while it's becoming a bit cliched to be influenced fashion wise by that show what caught my eye the most was the colour of all the clothes. From Betty's lovely florals to Peggy's modern prints, but mostly what I was inspired by are the strong jewel colours worn by Joan. Since I have pale skin and red hair, I thought I should try out some of those strong colours too (although I am realistic that I won't get those curves no matter what colour I wear!).

And then I saw this fabulous teal version of my favourite dress made by Cidell of Miss Celie's Pants fame. The pattern is Burda 8_2009, dress 128 which is the tulip shaped dress:

I made mine out of a dark grey herringbone lightweight wool and have since made a black grosgrain ribbon belt to wear with it, so it pretty much looks exactly like the magazine version:

I absolutely love this dress and wore it frequently last winter. It's such an elegant shape that I feel so well dressed in it even though it's so simple to just slip into it with a pair of shoes and I'm dressed. But because of the wool fabric, the longer sleeves, the colour and the fact that I fully lined it means it's only really for wearing during the cooler months of the year. So I decided to make a summer version in a bright colour, and when I say bright, I mean bright:

This is a stretch cotton drill in a vibrant fuchsia colour which I feared may have been too much when I was sewing it, but I wore it to work yesterday and I just loved the colour. I shortened those three quarter sleeves to cap sleeve length so that I could wear it in the hot weather, and I only lined the bodice which should be fine since it's a very dense fabric so I won't get any see through issues in the skirt area and it's not so tightly fitted that it will bag out after wear.

The other change I made to to this pattern which isn't immediately obvious but helped with fitting was to separate the back of the dress into a bodice and skirt to match the front. The pattern itself is just a single back piece, with a centre back zip and two vertical darts, and the waistline seam of the front finishes at the side seams. I thought this pattern looked a bit unfinished since the front and back didn't match, but the other benefits of splitting the back into two to match the front meant I could get a closer fit by deepening the darts and it also created a natural spot for a belt to sit as well.

I didn't make a muslin since I've made this previously, but it all worked out wonderfully and the fit is great which is a huge joy after all the effort I put into the last dress with no results. The only problem with this dress? The weather is cooling down now and I'll have to wait until later in the year to get a lot of wear out of it!

The Vogue pattern for the suit with the peplum and bell sleeves still hasn't arrived yet, so I have started working on another dress. Another muslin, sigh. Can I just have a rant about Vogue patterns online site though? I ordered a bunch of Simplicity patterns when they were $1.99 from a month or so ago, and the postage was very reasonable and the patterns arrived about a week later - totally excellent experience. however is a totally different story - three weeks later I'm still waiting for them to arrive, postage was an extortionate $15 for 3 patterns but I still bought them because it is cheaper than buying them here in Australia because I bought during a $3.99 sale. Good thing I have plenty of other things to work on, but still, I want to get on with making that jacket!

dresses galore!

Tuesday 8 March 2011
Some interesting feedback to my last post on the dress fitting issues. Lana from Illinois - you are so right that Calvin Klein patterns are designed for skinny minnies with no shape, which is so not my body type. In fact now that I look more closely at the pattern envelope I see that the model is not only straight up and down, but the dress doesn't even fit her that well despite the pattern envelope describing it as very fitted. Ah well, the pattern is now packed back into its envelope and in the pattern drawer. Even though it was a major failure for me I just can't throw away any patterns! Maybe I can use it on Anna in 15 years or so.....

Another comment that got me thinking was Trena's (aka The Slapdash Sewist) that she couldn't buy RTW dresses because her size variation, which is similar to mine. I tried and tried, but I cannot remember the last RTW dress I bought, I certainly haven't bought any in the last decade, but before that I can't even picture a RTW dress that I've worn either! But I do have these in my wardrobe:

That's 23 dresses up there on the hangers, plus I have another 3 dresses in the wash and I discovered another dress slipped inside one of those hanging up sharing a hanger, so that's a total of 27 dresses! 26 dresses I sewed myself, and 1 dress that I refashioned, but absolutely none are store bought. And that's even after I had a wardrobe purge a few weeks ago and let go of a few dresses that I had made. And I have quite a few more maternity dresses stored away for the next time I do something crazy like get pregnant. Until I put them all together like this I didn't realise how many I had made, but I must say I'm pretty proud of this situation - I'm well on the way to having a fully custom made wardrobe.

Interestingly, there's not that many grey dresses in there even though it seems like I am always sewing with that colour - there are only four (one is in the wash). Quite a few in the red/pink/purple range, only a couple in the black/brown range and a few in the blue shades as well.

Looks like I need some dresses in yellow and green (separately, not together - I'm not an Olympic athlete) to make up the full spectrum!

And my newest dress is hidden in amongst that lot - I plan to wear it to work tomorrow so shall have some pictures soon. It's made from a stretch cotton - anonymous, I sooo agree with your cheaty way to get a good fit!

Thank you AnaJan for bestowing the Versatile Blogger award upon me, it's been ages since I've gotten one of these and I was beginning to think you all didn't love me! Ha ha just kidding... You really should check out AnaJan's blog though, she is the Burda queen - I've never seen someone sew so many Burda patterns with so much success too!

Anyway I'm supposed to pass the award onto 15 other bloggers, but I'm too lazy for that so consider yourself all awarded. I also have to reveal 7 random facts about myself, so let's see what I can think up:

1. I'm the middle child in my family, I have one younger sister and one older brother. We all have red hair and freckles, even though my mum has blonde hair and my dad used to have brown hair (all gone now I'm afraid!).

2. I've been wearing glasses since I was in fifth class (about 11 years old), probably caused by me always sitting in the back row in class because I was usually reading a book under my desk instead of doing maths!

3. I was very accident prone as a child, spending many hours in the emergency department of our local hospital, mainly because I was always trying to keep up or outdo my brother (middle child syndrome?). Falling off the garage roof or out of trees, crashing bicycles or skateboards you name I did it. Broken collarbones and fingers, fractured heel, stitches, bruises, concussions and stitches.

4. My first overseas trip was to South America for nearly 2 months, all by myself when I was 20. I was so naive that I landed in Lima at 3am after flying for about two days straight with no accommodation or transport arranged from the airport to the city. All good though, I met some fellow Australians (we're all over the world aren't we?) and tagged along with them.

5. In high school I despised home economics and the first thing I ever sewed was a pair of fluoro yellow boxer shorts that I never ever wore. I studied technical drawing and industrial design instead - my parents still have a coffee table I designed and built.

6. I had all four of my wisdom teeth pulled out in one go, in the dentist chair too and not a hospital stay. In fact it didn't even hurt that much even though I stocked up on a week's worth of canned soup. It's why I was so surprised that childbirth hurt so much, because my mum told me that her giving birth three times without any drugs didn't hurt as much as having her teeth pulled. She was so LYING!

7. My husband and I are both town planners, and we met working together at a local council in the development assessment section. We kept the relationship secret for six months though until my husband found a different job. These days however he's a property developer and I work in environmental policy, so we've left our town planning days behind us, but we do have many many friends in the industry so there's always lots of trade talk when we all get together!

testing, testing, 1 2 3

Thursday 3 March 2011
Well my wedding ring made it's way out of Anna safely, with no harm to either the swallower or the ring itself! I'll spare you the gruesome details, but I still can't bring myself to wear it yet and it's still sitting in a bowl of disinfectant. Anna is quite proud of her little tale, if we ask her 'what happened to mummy's ring?', this is what she does:

And then she will point to her rear end and say quite loudly "it came out my bum"! That's children for you, keeping it real......

Thanks all for your empathy and sympathy regarding our little experiment in sleep deprivation torture. It doesn't gladden me to hear that other people have suffered from it, but it is nice to know that others have experienced it and are still surviving and indeed had more children. Mary Nanna - you've hit the nail on the head for me, I feel that other people just have no clue how hard some children can be to parent when their own children are reasonably well behaved, and it gets very annoying when they try to downplay what I'm experiencing.

And thanks everyone for your opinions on those bell sleeves - I knew you would all have an opinion or two! However, I'm still torn, I think they look good but it does seem like a lot going on what with the peplum and pleats of the skirt, plus I can see how unpractical they could be. I guess I'm going to have to make a test garment before I decide.

And speaking of test garments, I forced myself to finish the hem on the dress I made recently as a test for a new pattern only because of my resolve to create no new UFOs. I wore it today too, and in addition to the fit of the dress being nothing special, it was also not that comfortable as it was too restricted around the shoulders. Sigh, such a waste of two fitting muslins and one test garment! But at least my expensive and beautiful fabric I planned to use is still sitting safe and sound in my stash until I find the one.

The pattern I used is Vogue 1914 which is a 1997 Calvin Klein pattern, and is so OOP that a google search didn't even find someone selling it second hand, nor any mention of it all anywhere else.

I chose to make View B, which is the sleeveless version pictured in the centre. Doesn't look like anything special does it? But it was the back view that piqued my interest:

I thought that the curved inset band in the lower back of the dress would greatly help with my issues of excess fabric in that area. But it didn't, sadly. Fitting muslin 1 was cut straight off the pattern: too tight around the hips, too big in the bust, and loads of ease in the front and back (typical result).
Fitting muslin 2: I made a swayback adjustment to both the bodice back and back inset piece, added a few centimetres width to the skirt, took out a few centimetres across the bust, and widened the darts in the front. Still not a great fit.

Having gotten sick of sewing and then taking apart fitting muslins I gave up at this point and made a test garment with further modifications: I put a vertical dart in the back bodice piece, also shortened the bodice by 2cm, and lowered those front darts. Here's my finished test garment:

The front doesn't look too bad in this photo, but trust me there is a lot of puffiness in the front there below my bust near my waist. As you can see from the side shots, I can pinch out a fair amount of excess fabric in both the front and back above my hipline:

Maybe my expectations are too high, I want a close fitting dress that skims over my curves without clinging but when you have very large hips, a small waist and an even smaller bust size it just doesn't work, especially in a woven fabric. I'm not kidding, according to the Vogue measurements my bust is a size 6, my waist is between a size 10 and 12, and my hip is a size 16.

Possibly also the fabric I used didn't help either - it was one of those fabrics that I couldn't decide whether it was fugly or amusing. It's a vintage cotton that came in a bulk lot I bought off ebay quite a few years ago, and the pattern is little brown strawberries and orange flowers:

It's no great loss to have made a dress from this fabric that I will probably only wear around the house!

But this exercise wasn't a complete loss, I did learn some more about my fitting issues that I hadn't realised I had, despite having done a pattern making course where we did detailed measurements:

1. I think I'm short waisted, because by shortening the bodice by 2cm it made the skirt fall over my hips and thighs much better.

2. I'm not so sure I need to do sway back adjustments, since that didn't really help anyway and thanks to pattern~scissors~cloth I realise there are other causes of excess fabric in the back.

3. My shoulders are quite uneven, with my right side being about 1.5cm lower than the left. Sewing a larger seam on my right shoulder piece fixed up a diagonal wrinkle I had across the front, so realising this was quite the revelation. But now that I look at the rear view photos of myself, it should have been clear all along:

4. Those French darts on the front of the dress (a combined waist and bust dart emerging from the side seams - thanks again to pattern~scissors~cloth for the definition) don't suit my figure. Seperate bust dart and vertical contour front darts works much better for me, as do princess seams.

Anyway I've put this all behind me now, I have so many other patterns that I think it's unnecessary to further work on this one when I may have the perfect pattern in my stash just waiting for me to try it. Plus I've already started work on my next dress, which in a major departure from my usual it's in a bright fabric. Vivid in fact! Not at all grey. As a teaser here's the thread I'm using: